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Archive for February, 2017

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If I Could Tell You by Elizabeth Wilhide

Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale meets Anna Karenina, a vivid and captivating novel of love, war, and the resilience of one woman’s spirit

England, 1939: Julia Compton has a beautifully well-ordered life. Once a promising pianist, she now has a handsome husband, a young son she adores, and a housekeeper who takes care of her comfortable home. Then, on the eve of war, a film crew arrives in her coastal town. She falls in love.

The consequences are devastating. Penniless, denied access to her son, and completely unequipped to fend for herself, she finds herself adrift in wartime London with her lover, documentary filmmaker Dougie Birdsall. While Dougie seeks truth wherever he can find it, Julia finds herself lost. As the German invasion looms and bombs rain down on the city, she faces a choice: succumb to her fate, or fight to forge a new identity in the heat of war.

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Author’s Bio

Elizabeth Wilhide is the author of two novels, If I CouldTell You ( published by Fig Tree Penguin 2016 and Penguin US 2017) and Ashenden (Fig Tree Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Lumen).

She has also published many books on design and interiors, including William Morris: Décor and Design, Sir Edwin Lutyens: Designing in the English Tradition, The Mackintosh Style and Scandinavian Home.

She has two children and lives in south London.

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A Conversation with Liz Wilhide, author of If I Could Tell You

 In the acknowledgements, you write that the character of Dougie was inspired by British wartime filmmaker Humphrey Jennings. How did you discover his story and why did it inspire you?

A friend’s mother, who lived through the war, told me about Jennings many years ago, singling out two of his films in particular: Fires Were Started and Listen to Britain. At the time I was reading Mass-Observation accounts of Blitz – contemporary diaries written by anonymous contributors – and was fascinated by the vivid descriptions of the bombing, particularly where these diverged from popular mythology. While the “Blitz spirit” undoubtedly existed, some of the diarists also recorded feelings of fear, panic, depression, despair and exhaustion, which is hardly surprising. Not everyone behaved well under bombardment – looting, for example, was common. Yet there was immense courage, too, of the everyday, putting one-foot-in-front-of-the-other variety.

 

Can you tell your readers a little more about Jennings and his work? In what ways are he and Dougie similar and in what ways do they differ?

Jennings was a hugely significant figure in the early years of British documentary filmmaking. The war, which came along at the right time for him, became his great subject. He was a painter, a Surrealist, and a poet, as well as a film-maker. Dougie shares many of his interests, characteristics and talents. He also shares some of his faults.

When I was writing the novel, a friend put me in touch with John Krish, a noted British documentary film-maker of the 1950s and 1960s, who began his career during the war when he went to work at Denham Studios at the age of 16. His boss was Stuart McAllister, Jennings’ editor, and Krish knew Jennings at the time he was making his best-known films.

John Krish was well over ninety when I interviewed him, and not in good health (sadly, he died earlier this year). But he was incredibly generous with his time and his memories. When I first spoke to him on the phone, he said, with wry amusement in his voice, “So you want to talk about Humphrey, do you?” and hairs rose on the back of my neck. The cold winter morning when I talked to him in his kitchen about a man I knew only from films and biographies was a great gift.

 

What was the purpose of films like Jennings’s? Do you believe they were effective? How would today’s viewers respond to that work?

Jennings’ films were propaganda, intended to bolster morale on the home front and to portray a resolute nation under fire to friends abroad. Widely shown in Britain, they were also screened in the United States to help shift public opinion in the days before Pearl Harbor. Yet they were not crude exercises in tub-thumping; there was something much subtler about their explorations of national character. Who are we, and what do we value, they seem to say. Jennings, like others in the documentary film movement, was dedicated to telling the truth, at least as much truth as the wartime authorities would allow. He was also, first and foremost, an artist, who pushed the boundaries of what was technically possible at the time.

 

Like this book, your previous novel Ashenden was also based on historical events and individuals. What are the challenges in melding fact with fiction? What is the appeal?

When you are writing fiction based on real, well-documented events, I believe you are under an absolute obligation to be as accurate as possible. For me, it’s a question of respect, a duty we owe the past and those who lived through it, as well as to historians who have put in the hard academic graft.

It’s also the case that nothing destroys a reader’s faith in a historical novel faster than a historical howler. Truth matters in any kind of fiction and a disregard of it shows sloppiness at best. I live in dread of making mistakes, which is why I will check and check and check again – even so, I know I am bound to have got something wrong.

 

The level of historical detail in the novel is impressive and suggests that you did a lot of research before writing the novel. What was your research and writing process? Did you find any interesting information that didn’t make it into the book?

The Irish novelist Sebastian Barry once made a very interesting observation about research. When he was writing A Long Long Way, a book that is partly set during the 1916 Easter Rising, he said he went to the trouble of finding out what Dublin’s street lamps looked like at that date – not so he could put this detail in his book and impress his readers by his thoroughness, but so he could feel confident about leaving it out. That seems to me to convey a crucial point, which is that the purpose of research is to give you confidence in your decisions. Does this matter? Would it have been unusual at the time? Is it worth noticing? Your aim always has to be show, not tell.

The war is still, just, within living memory. My high school French teacher, Miss Simpkins, used to tell us how she had taken a bus to Victoria station during an air raid to retrieve her umbrella from Lost Property. That went into the book. So did a conversation I had with a cab driver, who had lived in our East End street as a boy and who told me that he had been saved by his wardrobe when the ceiling of his bedroom came down.

 

Julia has a deep emotional and intellectual connection with music, and because of this, there are a number of detailed discussions of specific classical pieces. Of the pieces Julia describes, which is your favorite? Do you play any instruments?

I played the piano for a while when I was in my teens – badly, but well enough to gain both enjoyment from it and an understanding of what it would take to be good at it. My daughter, who persevered, is wonderful pianist and I loved listening to her practice on the Bechstein that lived in our hall. Chopin’s “Raindrop Prelude” always reminds me of her. My mother played the piano by ear and with much rolling of chords – especially popular songs from the 1930s and 1940s, such as “Stardust”, which is briefly mentioned in the book. But the piece that really makes me smile and gives me itchy feet is Art Tatum’s irrepressible “Tea for Two”. I can listen to that over and over. It’s so sexy.

 

Julia changes dramatically over the course of If I Could Tell You.What do you see as her greatest strength and her greatest flaw?

Her greatest strength is resilience. You don’t necessarily appreciate it at the outset, but it develops, almost like a muscle. The war was a long haul.

I’m tempted to say her greatest flaw is self-deception, which she shares to a greater or lesser degree with most of us – love is blind, after all – but I think failing to rise to the challenge of her talent, selling herself short, is probably worse.

 

Where would she be if she had never met Dougie? Would she be happy? Would her life be fulfilling?

There is an inevitability about Julia meeting Dougie – he was just waiting to happen. In many ways, he represents the unfinished business she has with herself. When the novel opens she has chosen a safe, protected route in life. While the war would inevitably have changed her, as it changed everyone, I doubt that she would ever have been truly happy if she had not found some means of taking full responsibility for herself – effectively if she had never grown up.

 

You did extensive research on the new roles British women took on during the war. Why was it important to you to explore this history? How do you see Julia’s work at the HAA as it relates to her identity and transformation in the novel?

Julia is what I’d like to call an accidental feminist. Her story asks a question. What would it be like if women were defined not by their relationships but by their work? The war gave women a chance to explore new identities, to be what we recognize as modern.

When women’s war work is portrayed in historical fiction, it’s often of the caring, supportive and nurturing variety: nursing, driving ambulances, volunteering at canteens, making tea. All of which are worthy. But I wanted Julia to experience true agency, to step right away from a traditional role and stand on the front line.

Two things inspired me. One was a photograph of a young female motorbike dispatch rider in the ATS. She looks as pleased as punch. The other was an article in a 1940s magazine a friend sent me, which described how the first draft of women on HAA batteries was initially received. (The powers that be were very concerned that they would need to eat salad.)

Praise for IF I COULD TELL YOU by Elizabeth Wilhide

“Heart-wrenching . . .Wilhide creates a closely detailed, finely shaded portrayal of love and war that is anti-romantic but far from cynical.”—Kirkus Reviews

 

While comparisons to Anna Karenina could be made, Julia is made of stronger stuff, and eventually, she crafts a useful life and is able to discover some measure of peace. The author’s careful attention to period detail, complemented by clean prose, is a special strength of this book. The effects of wartime ruin are vividly rendered, and one can almost taste the dust falling through the stairs during bombing raids.”

Booklist (Starred Review)

 

“Readers who enjoy introspective and morally ambiguous tales such as Jojo Moyes’s The Last Letter from Your Lover and Anita Shreve’s The Pilot’s Wife will want to pick up this tale from a promising writer . . . Wilhide delves deep into the human psyche, especially when it comes to loving and losing.”

Library Journal

 

“Elizabeth Wilhide’s IF I COULD TELL YOU is a marvelous work of historical fiction, beautifully crafted and inhabited by morally complex and fully realized characters. It’s one of best novels I’ve read this year, compelling, immersive, and utterly impossible to put down.” —Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Fates and Traitors and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

 

IF I COULD TELL YOU is a beautifully composed work of historical fiction, its atmospheric lyricism a testimony to the obvious skills of the author, who evokes Britain’s past with honesty and feeling.”

Historical Novels Review

 

“A heartrending story of passion and loss, beautifully crafted with finely drawn characters and wonderful detail, set against the darkest years of the 20th century, when the world went to war for a second time.”

—Mary-Rose MacColl, author of In Falling Snow

 

“Elizabeth Wilhide writes about universal emotions with great tenderness and imagination.”

—Claire Fuller, author of Our Endless Numbered Days

 

“Unflinching, excellent…Wartime Britain has been rarely so skillfully evoked.”—Daily Mail (London)

 

“Beautifully observed and written.”—Woman and Home

 

“An elegant, absorbing tale of hope and resilience.”—Sainsbury’s Magazine

 

“Heart-wrenching . . . intoxicating.”—The Times (London)

I would like to thank the publisher for thinking of me to share about this book.

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Marked for Revenge

Marked for Revenge: A Thriller

Marked for Revenge (Jana Berzelius – 2) by Emelie Schepp

When a Thai girl overdoses smuggling drugs, the trail points to Danillo, the one criminal MMA-trained public prosecutor Jana Berzelius most wants to destroy. Eager to erase any evidence of her sordid childhood, Berzelius must secretly hunt down this deadly nemesis with whom she shares a horrific past.

Meanwhile, the police are zeroing in on the elusive head of the long-entrenched Swedish narcotics trade, who goes by the name The Old Man. No one has ever encountered this diabolical mastermind in person; he is like a shadow, but a shadow who commands extreme respect. Who is this overarching drug lord? Berzelius craves to know his identity, even as she clandestinely tracks Danillo, who has threatened to out her for who she really is. She knows she must kill him first, before he can reveal her secrets. If she fails, she will lose everything.

As she prepares for the fight of her life, Berzelius discovers an even more explosive and insidious betrayalone that entangles her inextricably in the whole sordid network of crime.

The second in a trilogy of fast-paced, high-stakes thrillers by the international bestselling author Emelie Schepp, Marked for Revenge involves the international drug trade and child trafficking and features the brilliant, enigmatic prosecutor Jana Berzelius, whose own dark past has, until recently, been hidden even from herself.”

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Author’s Bio

Emelie Schepp was born in 1979 and grew up in Motala. She has worked for many years as a project manager in the advertising industry.

The written word has always been close to her heart and in 1998 she won first prize in the Östergötland Theatre’s drama prize “Meetings”. Since then she has written two feature screenplays and two crime novels set in Norrkoping. Marked for life became her first book in 2013 that she first gave out self-published, and with over 40,000 copies sold Schepp ranked as Sweden’s leading private publisher. Marked for life is the first part in the series about prosecutors Jana Berzelius. The book became a sensation and today has sold close to 200,000 copies. Marked for life became Sweden’s sixth best-selling e-book in 2014 (Swedish bookstore), the year’s best-selling audio book in 2015 (Swedish Bookstore) and was nominated for the Swedish Audiobook Prize. Sequel White tracks released in May 2015 and has long topped the sales charts. Even the White tracks have been nominated to the Great Audiobook Prize. In May 2016 released the third installment in the series, Priority One. The series of Jana Berzelius are sold to 28 countries around the world.

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My Review

4 stars

Jane Berzelius is a prosecutor that works with the police on serious crimes. But her own past has her trained as a soldier and she goes out at night to get those that deserve it. She is intent on finding the criminal Danillo since he knows about her past and he can ruin her with that information. While Jane is on the hunt for Danillo, the police are looking for a shadow leader that is in control of the drugs and much more. At the same time we alternate with a story of two Thai girls that have been turned into drug mules. Unfortunately the one ends up overdosing on the drugs and bringing the attention of the police.

This book has a lot happening in it. Jane doesn’t remember a lot about her past so she remembers as we learn about it. I like how this made you more sympathetic to her. She has come so far from her past that she is willing and able to do anything to keep things the way they are currently. Although that was tough enough, it broke my heart to follow the Thai girls. Just reading about the one overdosing was so hard. It added a realistic and hard truth to this story.

Over all this is a great, fast paced thriller. Jane is a strong female character that I loved to follow. I admit that I have not read the first book in this series, Marked for Life. I could tell this story follows closely after so it took a few moments to catch on to where I was at. It didn’t make that big of a difference for enjoying Marked for Revenge. But it does mean that I have to get Marked for Life to figure out what I have missed.

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I received Marked for Revenge from Beth Parker PR for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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Apocalypse All the Time

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Apocalypse All the Time by David Atkinson

Doesn’t it seem as if someone issues a new apocalypse prediction every week? Y2K? The Mayan apocalypse? The Rapture? Doesn’t it seem endless? As opposed to the traditional trend of post-apocalyptic literature, Apocalypse All the Time is post-post-apocalypticism.

Marshall is sick of the apocalypse happening on a weekly (if not daily) basis. Life is constantly in peril, continually disrupted, but nothing significant ever happens. The emergency is always handled. Always. Marshall wants out; he wants it all to stop…one way or another. Apocalypse All the Time explores humanity’s fascination with the end times and what impact such a fascination has on the way we live our lives.

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Author’s Bio

David S. Atkinson is the author of “Apocalypse All the Time,” “Not Quite so Stories” (2016 Best Book Awards Finalist Fiction: Short Story), “The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes” (2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist in humor), and “Bones Buried in the Dirt” (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, First Novel <80K). He is a Staff Reader for Digging Through The Fat and his writing appears in “Bartleby Snopes,” “Literary Orphans,” “Atticus Review,” and others.

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My Review

4 stars

Marshall is sick and tired of apocalypses. It seems there is at least one every week. He just wants to go to the assembly line and do his job. During another apocalypse, Marshall decides to go shopping and meets Bonnie. She is tired of the apocalypses too. They start with a picnic during a zombie apocalypse and then find themselves “married” while being sent in space to another planet when the Earth is going to be destroyed by the sun.

But then enough is enough. Bonnie decides to mess with people with Marshall’s help during another apocalypse when everyone is stuck underground but she ends up saving everyone by giving them diarrhea. The lizard costumes didn’t work and neither did telling people that the apocalypse really isn’t happening. Bonnie finally decides that she has to kill humanity just to escape the apocalypse rut they were all stuck in.

I love apocalyptic and dystopian stories and could resist when I was asked to review Apocalypse All the Time. This is a hilarious look into those that live in the different apocalypses. I can see myself in Marshall’s place where once a week or more there was and Earth stopping event. All the poor man wants is some kind of normalcy. But you have floods, then fires, then freezes, then earthquakes, and it is never ending. And just when another one hits the Apocalypse Amelioration Agency cleans it up just to create or discovery another one. I don’t really blame Bonnie for trying to end humanity.

This is a great satirical look at the deluge of apocalyptic stories out in the market. If you are looking for a great laugh, you need to check out Apocalypse All the Time.

I received Apocalypse All the Time from Sami at Roger Charlie for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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The Rising

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The Rising by Heather Graham and Jon Land

From acclaimed thriller-suspense novelists Heather Graham and Jon Land comes a story of action, mystery, and the endurance of young love.

Twenty-four hours. That’s all it takes for the lives of two young people to be changed forever.

Alex Chin has the world on a plate. A football hero and homecoming king with plenty of scholarship offers, his future looks bright. His tutor, Samantha Dixon, is preparing to graduate high school at the top of her class. She plans to turn her NASA internship into a career. When a football accident lands Alex in the hospital, his world is turned upside down. His doctor is murdered. Then, his parents. Death seems to follow him wherever he goes, and now it’s after him.

Alex flees. He tells Samantha not to follow, but she became involved the moment she walked through his door and found Mr. and Mrs. Chin as they lay dying in their home. She cannot abandon the young man she loves. The two race desperately to stay ahead of Alex’s attackers long enough to figure out why they are hunting him in the first place. The answer lies with a secret buried deep in his past, a secret his parents died to protect. Alex always knew he was adopted, but he never knew the real reason his birth parents abandoned him. He never knew where he truly came from. Until now.

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Author’s Bios

Heather Graham

HEATHER GRAHAM is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. She has written over one hundred novels and novellas and has been honored with awards from Walden Books, B. Dalton, Georgia Romance Writers, Affaire de Coeur, RT Book Reviews, and more. Visit her online at theoriginalheathergraham.com.

Jon Land

JON LAND is the USA Today bestselling author of thirty-eight novels, including the bestselling series featuring female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. He is also the co-author of the nonfiction bestseller Betrayal. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be found on the web at jonlandbooks.com.

Heather Graham’s Website     Jon Land’s Website

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 My Review

4 stars

Alex Chin is the high school quarter back star. After a particularly rough tackle, he spends the night in the hospital. There the doctor makes a strange discovery about something in his brain. Samantha is Alex’s tutor. Sadly she discovers Alex’s parent’s murdered in their home. She meets Alex and they both go on the run after they discovery robots are who killed Alex’s parents. It seems there is much more to Alex then just being adopted by the Chin’s. There is a hunt for him and a race to stay alive and try to find someone that can explain what is happening.

I love Heather Graham’s stories so I was over the moon for the chance to review The Rising. It was easy to get into the story as you feel for Sam. Her parents are hippies and growing medical marijuana. She has dreams of working for NASA but no money to get there. She also has a crush on Alex.

Alex is a great kid, nice, respectful, and has some loving parents. He is the adopted child of Chinese immigrants and although strange, he loves his parents deeply. But after the CT scan and discovering his doctor murdered, Alex knows he has to go on the run. His origins are a great twist that I didn’t see coming.

I really liked how everything came into play and how the ending was left open for a possible sequel. I did listen to this on audiobook and really enjoyed listening to Luke Daniels. He did a great job narrating and drawing me further into the story.

This is a great young adult thriller. I strongly recommend checking it out.

I received The Rising from the publisher for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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Prison of Statues

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Book Title:   Prison of Statues  (Book 1 of The Statues Trilogy) by Ainsley Shay

Genre(s): YA Paranormal Romance

Everything appears colorless in Iris’ world…until she falls asleep and the nightmares begin.

Iris’ plan to stay in her small town of Gradywoods just long enough to bury her father shatters when she finds a letter he wrote to her only two days before his death. On the evening of his funeral, her nightmare bursts with colors. Being colorblind since birth, Iris feels both amazed and apprehensive, but when she wakes in the morning, her world turns gray once again.

The day after her father’s funeral, Iris finds refuge from her pain at Yves Antique Pages, the small bookshop owned by Mr. Yves, her adopted grandfather. She soon encounters three mysterious strangers who are inexplicably drawn to her. Through secrets and deceit, she fears they are all here for one reason…her.

Night after night, the nightmares continue into a series of disturbing events where Iris finds herself caught in a vibrant collision of past and present. In them, she witnesses another’s loss, torture, and broken love. As each episode escalates, she’s brought closer to a place where death may be a more satisfying end.

As Iris’ world reaches fragile limits, she must find a way out of an uncompromising fight for her life and for a love she may once have had.

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Ainsley Shay

Author’s Bio

Ainsley Shay’s passion for writing sparks from her unstoppable brain conjuring random first sentences, a single trait of a character, or a single thread of a plot. But, when her love for the fantastical world of fiction, where anything can happen takes over, it’s exactly at that moment she is reminded that the possibilities are endless. And, there is where the fun begins.

She surrounds herself with positive people and strives for balance in everything (rarely finds it, but she’ll never give up looking for it!). She sleeps with rocks and dreams in her pillowcase, loves audio books, has more jeans with holes than without, is fascinated with the word “hence”, and has a beta fish named Enzo, who excitedly meets her at his window each morning.
Ainsley resides in South Florida with her incredible husband and three amazing daughters. She loves the beach, but like most Floridians takes that beautiful part of our state for granted. (She’s working on that!)

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Other Works by Ainsley Shay:

Adelina’s Curse (Book 2 of The Statues Trilogy)

The Carving Witch (Book 3 of The Statues Trilogy)

After the Curtain Falls

Delicate Thorns

Catching Bait

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Excerpt

The front door opened. I reached across the passenger seat and rolled down the window. He was not quite silhouetted as light bathed him from behind. I could easily see the details of his shirtless, firm body. My dream hardly gave justice to the real thing. He stood on the porch with the phone still held to his ear. “Do you want to come in?”

“Yes.” This was not a good idea. I meant, it was a great idea, the best idea I ever had. But, it was bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. I got out of my car to go to him. Blacwin waited for me on the porch. It wasn’t until I heard him breathe as I climbed the few steps of the porch that I realized we both still held the phones against our ears. He whispered, “Hi,” into the receiver.

“Hi.” His bare chest was a distraction, as was the line that led from his chest all the way down to the waistline of his jeans.

“I guess we don’t need these anymore.”

Agreeing, I lowered the phone. We smiled sheepishly at each other. Bad idea, Iris. This is how things that probably shouldn’t happen, happen. But, right now, I really wanted those things to happen.

“I hope this isn’t too creepy, me showing up on your doorstep at four-thirty in the morning.”

“Creepier things have happened.” His smile touched his eyes, and simultaneously, every other part of me, too. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alive than in those countless seconds of staring into his eyes. It was like he knew every secret, every moment that had ever happened in my life. He pushed open the door and gestured for me to enter. I did. As I passed him, I caught a glimpse of the pendant resting in the hollow of his throat. Unconsciously, I took a sharp intake of breath. It was exactly the one from my dream. I shook my head and tried to conjure some rational explanation. I had to have glimpsed it before and tucked the image into the layers of my subconscious. No, I haven’t. I felt positive I had never seen it.

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War Hawk

War Hawk

by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood

on Tour February 13 – 28, 2017

Synopsis:

War Hawk by James Rollins

Former Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his war dog Kane are thrust into a global conspiracy in this second Sigma Force spinoff adventure from #1 New York Times bestselling author James Rollins and Grant Blackwood.

Tucker Wayne’s past and present collide when a former army colleague comes to him for help. She’s on the run from brutal assassins hunting her and her son. To keep them safe, Tucker must discover who killed a brilliant young idealist-a crime that leads back to the most powerful figures in the U.S. government.

From the haunted swamplands of the deep South to the beachheads of a savage civil war in Trinidad, Tucker and his beloved war dog, Kane, must work together to discover the truth behind a mystery that dates back to World War II, involving the genius of a young code-breaker, Alan Turing…

They will be forced to break the law, expose national secrets, and risk everything to stop a madman determined to control the future of modern warfare for his own diabolical ends. But can Tucker and Kane withstand a force so indomitable that it threatens our future?

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: William Morrow
Publication Date:December 27th 2016 (first published April 19th 2016)
Number of Pages: 544
ISBN: 0062135295 (ISBN13: 9780062135292)
Series: Tucker Wayne #2
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Prologue

Spring 1940

Buckinghamshire, England

Few in the Abwehr’s military intelligence knew his true name or even his intent here on British soil. The spy went by the code name Geist, the German word for ghost, and for him failure was not an option.

He lay on his stomach in a muddy ditch, with ice-encrusted cattails stabbing at his face. He ignored the midnight cold, the frigid gusts of breezes, the ache of his frozen joints. Instead, he concentrated on the view through the binoculars fixed to his face.

He and his assigned team lay alongside the banks of a small lake. A hundred yards off, on the opposite shore, a row of stately rural mansions sat dark, brightened here and there by the rare sliver of yellow light peeking through blackout curtains. Still, he spotted rolls of barbed wire mounted atop the garden walls of one particular estate.

Bletchley Park.

The place also went by a code name: Station X.

The seemingly nondescript country house masked an operation run by British intelligence, a joint effort by MI6 and the Government Code and Cypher School. In a series of wooden huts set up on those idyllic acres, the Allied forces had gathered the greatest mathematicians and cryptographers from around the globe, including one man, Alan Turing, who was decades ahead of his peers. Station X’s goal was to break the German military’s Enigma code, using tools built by the geniuses here. The group had already succeeded in building an electromechanical decrypting device called The Bombe, and rumors abounded about a new project already under way, to build Colossus, the world’s first programmable electric computer.

But destroying such devices was not his goal this night.

Hidden upon those grounds was a prize beyond anything his superiors could imagine: a breakthrough that held the potential to change the very fate of the world.

And I will possess it—or die trying.

Geist felt his heart quicken.

To his left, his second in command, Lieutenant Hoffman, pulled the collar of his jacket tighter around his neck as an icy rain began to fall. He shifted, cursing his complaint. “Gott verlassenen Land.

Geist kept his binoculars in place as he scolded the head of the commandos. “Silence. If anyone hears you speaking German, we’ll be stuck here for the rest of the war.”

Geist knew a firm hand was needed with the eight-man team under his charge. The members had been handpicked by the Abwehr not only for their superb martial skills but for their grasp of English. Whatever the British might lack in military presence out here in the rural regions, they made up for by a vigilant citizenry.

“Truck!” Hoffman rasped.

Geist glanced over his shoulder to the road passing through the woods behind him. A lorry trundled along, its headlights muted by blackout slits.

“Hold your breath,” Geist hissed.

He wasn’t about to let their presence catch the attention of the passing driver. He and the others kept their faces pressed low until the sound of the truck’s puttering engine faded away.

“Clear,” Hoffman said.

Geist checked his watch and searched again with his binoculars.

What is taking them so long?

Everything depended on clockwork timing. He and his team had offloaded from a U-boat five days ago onto a lonely beach. Afterward, the group had split into teams of two or three and worked their way across the countryside, ready with papers identifying them as day laborers and farmhands. Once they reached the target area, they had regrouped at a nearby hunting shack, where a cache of weapons awaited them, left by sleeper agents who had prepped the way in advance for Geist’s team.

Only one last detail remained.

A wink of light caught his attention from the grounds neighboring the Bletchley Park estate. It shuttered off once, then back on again—then finally darkness returned.

It was the signal he had been waiting for.

Geist rolled up to an elbow. “Time to move out.”

Hoffman’s team gathered their weapons: assault rifles and noise-suppressed pistols. The largest commando—a true bull of a man named Kraus—hauled up an MG42 heavy machine gun, capable of firing twelve hundred rounds per minute.

Geist studied the black-streaked faces around him. They had trained for three months within a life-sized mock-up of Bletchley Park. By now, they could all walk those grounds blindfolded. The only unknown variable was the level of on-site defense. The research campus was secured by both soldiers and guards in civilian clothes.

Geist went over the plan one last time. “Once inside the estate, torch your assigned buildings. Cause as much panic and confusion as possible. In that chaos, Hoffman and I will attempt to secure the package. If shooting starts, take down anything that moves. Is that understood?”

Each man nodded his head.

With everyone prepared—ready to die if need be—the group set off and followed the contour of the lake, sticking to the mist-shrouded forest. Geist led them past the neighboring estates. Most of these old homes were shuttered, awaiting the summer months. Soon servants and staff would be arriving to prepare the country homes for the leisure season, but that was still a couple of weeks away.

It was one of the many reasons this narrow window of opportunity had been chosen by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence. And there was one other time-critical element.

“Access to the bunker should be just up ahead,” Geist whispered back to Hoffman. “Ready the men.”

The British government—aware that Adolf Hitler would soon launch an air war against this island nation—had begun constructing underground bunkers for its critical installations, including Bletchley Park. The bunker at Station X was only half completed, offering a brief break in the secure perimeter around the estate.

Geist intended to take advantage of that weakness this night.

He led his team toward a country house that neighbored Bletchley Park. It was a red-brick Tudor with yellow shutters. He approached the stacked-stone fence that surrounded the grounds and waved his team to flatten against it.

“Where are we going?” Hoffman whispered. “I thought we were going through some bunker.”

“We are.” Only Geist had been given this last piece of intelligence.

He crouched low and hurried toward the gate, which he found unlocked. The winking signal earlier had confirmed that all was in readiness here.

Geist pushed open the gate, slipped through, and led his team across the lawn to the home’s glass-enclosed conservatory. He found another unlocked door there, hurried inside with his men, and crossed to the kitchen. The all-white cabinetry glowed in the moonlight streaming through the windows.

Wasting no time, he stepped to a door beside the pantry. He opened it and turned on his flashlight, revealing a set of stairs. At the bottom, he found a stone-floored cellar; the walls were white-painted brick, the exposed ceiling a maze of water pipes running through the floor joists. The cellar spanned the width of the house.

He led his team past stacks of boxes and furniture draped in dusty sheets to the cellar’s eastern wall. As directed, he pulled away a rug to reveal a hole that had been recently dug through the floor. Another bit of handiwork from Canaris’s sleeper agents.

Geist shone his flashlight down the hole, revealing water flowing below.

“What is it?” Hoffman asked.

“Old sewer pipe. It connects all the estates circling the lake.”

“Including Bletchley Park,” Hoffman realized with a nod.

“And its partially completed bunker,” Geist confirmed. “It’ll be a tight squeeze, but we’ll only need to cross a hundred meters to reach the construction site of that underground bomb shelter and climb back up.”

According to the latest intelligence, those new foundations of the bunker were mostly unguarded and should offer them immediate access into the very heart of the estate’s grounds.

“The Brits won’t know what hit them,” Hoffman said with a mean grin.

Geist again led the way, slipping feetfirst through the hole and dropping with a splash into the ankle-deep dank water. He kept one hand on the moldy wall and headed along the old stone pipe. It was only a meter and a half wide, so he had to keep his back bowed, holding his breath against the stink.

After a handful of steps, he clicked off his flashlight and aimed for the distant glow of moonlight. He moved more slowly along the curving pipe, keeping his sloshing to a minimum, not wanting to alert any guards who might be canvassing the bunker’s construction site. Hoffman’s teammates followed his example.

At last, he reached that moonlit hole in the pipe’s roof. A temporary grate covered the newly excavated access point to the old sewer. He fingered the chain and padlock that secured the grate in place.

Unexpected but not a problem.

Hoffman noted his attention and passed him a set of bolt cutters. With great care, Geist snapped through the lock’s hasp and freed the chain. He shared a glance with the lieutenant, confirming everyone was ready—then pushed the grate open and pulled himself up through the hole.

He found himself crouched atop the raw concrete foundations of the future bunker. The skeletal structure of walls, conduits, and plumbing surrounded him. Scaffolding and ladders led up toward the open grounds of the estate above. He hurried to one side, ducking under a scaffold, out of direct view. One by one the remaining eight commandoes joined him.

Geist took a moment to orient himself. He should be within forty meters of their target: Hut 8. It was one of several green-planked structures built on these grounds. Each had its own purpose, but his team’s goal was the research section overseen by the mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing.

He gestured for the men to huddle together.

“Remember, no shooting unless you’re intercepted. Toss those incendiaries into Huts 4 and 6. Let the fire do the work for us. With any luck, the distraction will create enough confusion to cover our escape.”

Hoffman pointed to two of his men. “Schwab, you take your team to Hut 4. Faber, you and your men have Hut 6. Kraus, you trail us. Be ready to use that machine gun of yours if there is any trouble.”

The lieutenant’s men nodded in agreement, then scaled the ladders and disappeared out of the open pit of the bunker. Geist followed on their heels with Hoffman and Kraus trailing him.

Staying low, he headed north until he reached Hut 8 and flattened against the wooden siding. The door should be around the next corner. He waited a breath, making sure no alarm had been raised.

He counted down in his head until finally shouts arose to the east and west. “Fire, fire, fire!

Upon that signal, he slid around the corner and climbed a set of plank steps to reach the door into Hut 8. He turned the knob as the night grew brighter, flickering with fresh flames.

As more shouts rose, he pushed through the doorway and into a small room. The center was dominated by two trestle tables covered in stacks of punch cards. The whitewashed walls were plastered with propaganda posters warning about ever-present Nazi eyes and ears.

With his pistol raised, he and Hoffman rushed across and burst through the far doorway into the next room. Seated at a long table, two women sorted through more piles of punch cards. The woman to the right was already looking up. She spun in her chair, reaching for a red panic button on the wall.

Hoffmann shot her twice in the side. The suppressed gunfire was no louder than a couple of firm coughs.

Geist took out the second woman with a single round through her throat. She toppled backward, her face still frozen in an expression of surprise.

They must have been Wrens—members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service—who were assisting in the work being conducted here.

Geist hurried to the first woman, searched her pockets, and came up with a thumb-sized brass key. On the second woman, he found a second key, this one iron.

With his prizes in hand, he hurried back to the main room.

From outside, there arose the wonk-wonk-wonk of an alarm klaxon.

So far our subterfuge seems to be—

The rattling blasts of a submachine gun cut off this last thought. More gunfire followed. Hoffman cursed.

“We’ve been discovered,” the lieutenant warned.

Geist refused to give up. He crossed to a waist-high safe along one wall. As expected, it was secured by two keyed locks, top and bottom, and a combination dial in the center.

“Need to hurry, sir,” Hoffmann rasped next to him. “Sounds like we got a lot of foot traffic outside.”

Geist pointed to the door. “Kraus, clear a path for us back to the bunker.”

The large soldier nodded, hefted up his heavy weapon, and vanished out the door. As Geist inserted his two keys, Kraus’s MG42 opened up outside, roaring into the night.

Geist focused on the task at hand, turning one key, then the other, getting a satisfying thunk-thunk in return. He moved his hand to the combination lock. This was truly the test of the Abwehr’s reach.

He spun the dial: nine…twenty-nine…four.

He took a breath, let it out, and depressed the lever.

The safe door swung open.

Thank God.

A quick search inside revealed only one item: a brown accordion folder wrapped in red rubber bands. He read the name stenciled on the outside.

The ARES Project

He knew Ares was the Greek god of war, which was appropriate, considering the contents. But that connotation only hinted at the true nature of the work found inside. The acronym—ARES—stood for something far more earth-shattering, something powerful enough to rewrite history. He grabbed the folder with trembling hands, knowing the terrifying wonders it held, and stuffed the prize into his jacket.

His second in command, Hoffman, stepped over to the hut’s door, cracked it open, and yelled outside. “Kraus!”

“Komm!” Kraus answered in German, forsaking any need for further subterfuge. “Get out here before they regroup!”

Geist joined Hoffman at the door, pulled the pin on an incendiary grenade, and tossed it back into the center of the room. Both men lunged outside as it exploded behind them, blowing out the windows with gouts of flames

To their left, a pair of British soldiers sprinted around the corner of the hut. Kraus cut them down with his machine gun, but more soldiers followed, taking cover and returning fire, forcing Geist’s team away from the excavated bunker—away from their only escape route.

As they retreated deeper into the grounds, smoke billowed more thickly, accompanied by the acrid stench of burning wood.

Another set of figures burst through the pall. Kraus came close to carving them in half with his weapon, but at the last moment, he halted, recognizing his fellow commandos. It was Schwab’s team.

“What about Faber and the others?” Hoffman asked.

Schwab shook his head. “Saw them killed.”

That left only the six of them.

Geist quickly improvised. “We’ll make for the motor pool.”

He led the way at a dead run. The team tossed incendiaries as they went, adding to the confusion, strafing down alleyways, dropping anything that moved.

Finally they reached a row of small sheds. Fifty meters beyond, the main gate came into view. It looked like a dozen soldiers crouched behind concrete barriers, guns up, looking for targets. Spotlights panned the area.

Before being seen, Geist directed his group into a neighboring Quonset hut, where three canvas-sided lorries were parked.

“We need that gate cleared,” Geist said, looking at Hoffman and his men, knowing what he was asking of them. For any chance of escape, many of them would likely die in the attempt.

The lieutenant stared him down. “We’ll get it done.”

Geist clapped Hoffman on the shoulder, thanking him.

The lieutenant set out with his remaining four men.

Geist crossed and climbed into one of the lorries, where he found the keys in the ignition. He started the engine, warming it up, then hopped back out again. He crossed to the remaining two trucks and popped their hoods.

In the distance, Kraus’s machine gun began a lethal chattering, accompanied by the rattle of assault rifles and the overlapping crump of exploding grenades.

Finally, a faint call reached him.

Klar, klar, klar!” Hoffman shouted.

Geist hurried back to the idling lorry, climbed inside, and put the truck into gear—but not before tossing two grenades into each of the open engine compartments of the remaining lorries. As he rolled out and hit the accelerator, the grenades exploded behind him.

He raced to the main gate and braked hard. British soldiers lay dead; the spotlights shot out. Hoffman rolled the gate open, limping on a bloody leg. Supported by a teammate, Kraus hobbled his way into the back of the lorry. Hoffman joined him up front, climbing into the passenger seat and slamming the door angrily.

“Lost Schwab and Braatz.” Hoffman waved ahead. “Go, go.”

With no time to mourn, Geist gunned the engine and raced down the country road. He kept one eye on the side mirror, watching for any sign of pursuit. Taking a maze of turns, he tried to further confound their escape route. Finally, he steered the lorry down a narrow dirt tract lined by overgrown English oaks. At the end was a large barn, its roof half collapsed. To the left was a burned-out farmhouse.

Geist parked beneath some overhanging boughs and shut off the engine. “We should see to everyone’s injuries,” he said. “We’ve lost enough good men.”

“Everybody out,” Hoffman ordered, rapping a knuckle on the back of the compartment.

After they all climbed free, Geist surveyed the damage. “You’ll all get the Knight’s Cross for your bravery tonight. We should—”

A harsh shout cut him off, barked in German. “Halt! Hände hoch!

A dozen men, bristling with weapons, emerged from the foliage and from behind the barn.

“Nobody move!” the voice called again, revealing a tall American with a Tommy gun in hand.

Geist recognized the impossibility of their team’s situation and lifted his arms. Hoffman and his last two men followed his example, dropping their weapons and raising their hands.

It was over.

As the Americans frisked Hoffman and the others, a lone figure stepped from the darkened barn door and approached Geist. He pointed a .45-caliber pistol at Geist’s chest.

“Tie him up,” he ordered one of his men.

As his wrists were efficiently bound in rope, his captor spoke in a rich southern twang. “Colonel Ernie Duncan, 101st Airborne. You speak English?”

“Yes.”

“Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?”

Schweinhund,” Geist answered with a sneer.

“Son, I’m pretty sure that isn’t your name. I’ll assume that slur is intended for me. So then let’s just call you Fritz. You and I are going to have a talk. Whether it’s pleasant or ugly is up to you.”

The American colonel called to one of his men. “Lieutenant Ross, put those other three men into the back of their truck and get them ready for transport. Say good-bye to your team, Fritz.”

Geist turned to face his men and shouted, “Für das Vaterland!

Das Vaterland!” Hoffman and the others repeated in unison.

The American soldiers herded the commandos into the back of the lorry, while Colonel Duncan marched Geist over to the barn. Once inside, he closed the doors and waved to encompass the piles of hay and manure.

“Sorry for our meager accommodations, Fritz.”

Geist turned to face him and broke into a smile. “Damned good to see you, too, Duncan.”

“And you, my friend. How’d it go? Find what you were looking for?”

“It’s in my jacket. For whatever’s it worth, those Germans fight like the devil. Bletchley’s burning. But they should be up and running again in a week.”

“Good to know.” Duncan used a razor blade to free his bound wrists. “How do you want to play this from here?”

“I’ve got a small Mauser hidden in a crotch holster.” Geist stood up and rubbed his wrists, then unwound his scarf and folded it into a thick square. He reached into the front of his pants and withdrew the Mauser.

Geist glanced behind him. “Where’s the back door?”

Duncan pointed. “By those old horse stalls. Nobody’ll be back behind the barn to see you escape. But you’ll have to make it look convincing, you know. Really smack me good. Remember, we Americans are tough.”

“Duncan, I’m not keen on this idea.”

“Necessities of war, buddy. You can buy me a case of scotch when we get back to the States.”

Geist shook the colonel’s hand.

Duncan dropped his .45 to the ground and smiled. “Oh look, you’ve disarmed me.”

“We Germans are crafty that way.”

Next Duncan ripped open the front of his fatigue blouse, popping buttons off onto the straw-covered floor. “And there’s been a struggle.”

“Okay, Duncan, enough. Turn your head. I’ll rap you behind the ear. When you wake up, you’ll have a knot the size of a golf ball and a raging headache, but you asked for it.”

“Right.” He clasped Geist by the forearm. “Watch yourself out there. It’s a long way back to DC.”

As Duncan turned his head away, a flicker of guilt passed through Geist. Still, he knew what needed to be done.

Geist pressed the wadded scarf to the Mauser’s barrel and jammed it against Duncan’s ear.

The colonel shifted slightly. “Hey, what are you—”

He pulled the trigger. With the sound of a sharp slap, the bullet tore through Duncan’s skull, snapping his friend’s head back as the body toppled forward to the ground.

Geist stared down. “So sorry, my friend. As you said before, necessities of war. If it makes you feel any better, you’ve just changed the world.”

He pocketed the pistol, walked to the barn’s back door, and disappeared into the misty night, becoming at last…a true ghost.

FIRST

Ghost Hunt

1

October 10, 6:39 p.m. MDT
Bitterroot Mountains, Montana

All this trouble from a single damned nail…

Tucker Wayne tossed the flat tire into the back of his rental. The Jeep Grand Cherokee sat parked on the shoulder of a lonely stretch of road in the forested mountains of southwest Montana. These millions of acres of pines, glacier-cut canyons, and rugged peaks formed the largest expanse of pristine wilderness in the Lower 48.

He stretched a kink out of his back and searched down the winding stretch of blacktop, bracketed on both sides by sloping hills and dense stands of lodgepole pines.

Just my luck. Here in the middle of nowhere, I pick up a nail.

It seemed impossible that this great beast of an SUV could be brought low by a simple sliver of iron shorter than his pinkie. It was a reminder of how modern technological progress could still be ground to a halt by a single bit of antiquated hardware like a roofing nail.

He slammed the rear cargo hatch and whistled sharply. His companion on this cross-country journey pulled his long furry nose out of a huckleberry bush at the edge of the forest and glanced back at Tucker. Eyes the color of dark caramel looked plainly disappointed that this roadside pit stop had come to an end.

“Sorry, buddy. But we’ve got a long way to go if we hope to reach Yellowstone.”

Kane shook his heavy coat of black and tan fur, his thick tail flagging as he turned, readily accepting this reality. The two of them had been partners going back to his years with the U.S. Army Rangers, surviving multiple deployments across Afghanistan together. Upon leaving the service, Tucker took Kane with him—not exactly with the army’s permission, but that matter had been settled in the recent past.

The two were now an inseparable team, on their own, seeking new roads, new paths. Together.

Tucker opened the front passenger door and Kane hopped inside, his lean muscular seventy pounds fitting snugly into the seat. He was a Belgian Malinois, a breed of compact shepherd commonly used by the military and law enforcement. Known for their fierce loyalty and sharp intelligence, the breed was also well respected for their nimbleness and raw power in a battlefield environment.

But there was no one like Kane.

Tucker closed the door but lingered long enough to scratch his partner through the open window. His fingers discovered old scars under the fur, reminding Tucker of his own wounds: some easy to see, others just as well hidden.

“Let’s keep going,” he whispered before the ghosts of his past caught up with him.

He climbed behind the wheel and soon had them flying through the hills of the Bitterroot National Forest. Kane kept his head stuck out the passenger side, his tongue lolling, his nose taking in every scent. Tucker grinned, finding the tension melting from his shoulders as it always did when he was moving.

For the moment, he was between jobs—and he intended to keep it that way for as long as possible. He only took the occasional security position when his finances required it. After his last job—when he had been hired by Sigma Force, a covert branch of the military’s research-and-development department—his bank accounts continued to remain flush.

Taking advantage of the downtime, he and Kane had spent the last couple of days hiking the Lost Trail Pass, following in the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and now they were moving onto Yellowstone National Park. He had timed this trip to the popular park to reach it in the late fall, to avoid the crush of the high season, preferring the company of Kane to anyone on two legs.

Around a bend in the dark road, a pool of fluorescent lights revealed a roadside gas station. The sign at the entrance read

Fort Edwin Gas and Grocery. He checked his fuel gauge.

Almost empty.

He flipped on his turn signal and swung into the small station. His motel was three miles farther up the road. His plan had been to take a fast shower, collect his bags, and continue straight toward Yellowstone, taking advantage of the empty roads at night.

Now he had a snag in those plans. He needed to replace the flat tire as soon as possible. Hopefully someone at the gas station knew the closest place to get that done in these remote hills.

He pulled next to one of the pumps and climbed out. Kane hopped through the window on the other side. Together they headed for the station.

Tucker pulled open the glass door, setting a brass bell to tinkling. The shop was laid out in the usual fashion: rows of snacks and food staples, backed up by a tall stand of coolers along the back wall. The air smelled of floor wax and microwaved sandwiches.

“Good evening, good evening,” a male voice greeted him, his voice rising and falling in a familiar singsong manner.

Tucker immediately recognized the accent as Dari Persian. From his years in the deserts of Afghanistan, he was familiar with the various dialects of that desert country. Despite the friendliness of the tone, Tucker’s belly tightened in a knot of old dread. Men with that very same accent had tried to kill him more times than he could count. Worse still, they had succeeded in butchering Kane’s littermate.

He flashed to the bounding joy of his lost partner, the unique bond they had shared. It took all of his effort to force that memory back into that knot of old pain, grief, and guilt.

“Good evening,” the man behind the counter repeated, smiling, oblivious to the tension along Tucker’s spine. The proprietor’s face was nut brown, his teeth perfectly white. He was mostly bald, save for a monk’s fringe of gray hair. His eyes twinkled as though Tucker was a friend he hadn’t seen in years.

Having met hundreds of Afghan villagers in his time, Tucker knew the man’s demeanor was genuine. Still, he found it hard to step inside.

The man’s brow formed one concerned crinkle at his obvious hesitation. “Welcome,” he offered again, waving an arm to encourage him.

“Thanks,” Tucker finally managed to reply. He kept one hand on Kane’s flank. “Okay if I bring my dog in?”

“Yes, of course. All are welcome.”

Tucker took a deep breath and crossed past the front shelves, neatly stocked with packets of beef jerky, Slim Jims, and corn chips. He stepped to the counter, noting he was the only one in the place.

“You have a beautiful dog,” the man said. “Is he a shepherd?”

“A Belgian Malinois…a type of shepherd. Name’s Kane.”

“And I am Aasif Qazi, owner of this fine establishment.”

The proprietor stretched a hand across the counter. Tucker took it, finding the man’s grip firm, the palm slightly calloused from hard labor.

“You’re from Kabul,” Tucker said.

The man’s eyebrows rose high. “How did you know?”

“Your accent. I spent some time in Afghanistan.”

“Recently, I am guessing.”

Not so recently, Tucker thought, but some days it felt like yesterday. “And you?” he asked.

“I came to the States as a boy. My parents wisely chose to emigrate when the Russians invaded back in the seventies. I met my wife in New York.” He raised his voice. “Lila, come say hello.”

From an office in the back, a petite, gray-haired Afghani woman peeked out and smiled. “Hello. Nice to meet you.”

“So how did you both end up here?”

“You mean in the middle of nowhere?” Aasif’s grin widened. “Lila and I got tired of the city. We wanted something that was exact opposite.”

“Looks like you succeeded.” Tucker glanced around the empty shop and the dark forest beyond the windows.

“We love it here. And it’s normally not this deserted. We’re between seasons at the moment. The summer crowds have left, and the skiers have yet to arrive. But we still have our regulars.”

Proving this, a diesel engine roared outside, and a white, rust-stained pickup truck pulled between the pumps, fishtailing slightly as it came to a stop.

Tucker turned back at Aasif. “Seems like business is picking—”

The man’s eyes had narrowed, his jaw clenched. The army had handpicked Tucker as a dog handler because of his unusually high empathy scores. Such sensitivity allowed him to bond more readily and deeply with his partner—and to read people. Still, it took no skill at all to tell Aasif was scared.

Aasif waved to his wife. “Lila, go back in the office.”

She obeyed, but not before casting a frightened glance toward her husband.

Tucker moved closer to the windows, trailed by Kane. He quickly assessed the situation, noting one odd detail: duct tape covered the truck’s license plate.

Definitely trouble.

No one with good intentions blacked out his license plate.

Tucker took a deep breath. The air suddenly felt heavier, crackling with electricity. He knew it was only a figment of his own spiking adrenaline. Still, he knew a storm was brewing. Kane reacted to his mood, the hackles rising along the shepherd’s back, accompanied by a low growl.

Two men in flannel shirts and baseball caps hopped out of the cab; a third jumped down from the truck’s bed. The driver of the truck sported a dirty red goatee and wore a green baseball cap emblazoned with

I’d rather be doin’ your wife.

Great…not only are these yokels trouble, they have a terrible sense of humor.

Without turning, he asked, “Aasif, do you have security cameras?”

“They’re broken. We haven’t been able to fix them.”

He sighed loudly. Not good.

The trio strutted toward the station entrance. Each man carried a wooden baseball bat.

“Call the sheriff. If you can trust him.”

“He’s a decent man.”

“Then call him.”

“Tucker, perhaps it is best if you do not —”

“Make the call, Aasif.”

Tucker headed to the door with Kane and pushed outside before the others could enter. Given the odds, he would need room to maneuver.

Tucker stopped the trio at the curb. “Evening, fellas.”

“Hey,” replied Mr. Goatee, making a move to slip past him.

Tucker stepped to block him. “Store’s closed.”

“Bull,” said one of the others and pointed his bat. “Look, Shane, I can see that raghead from here.”

“Then you can also see he’s on the phone,” Tucker said. “He’s calling the sheriff.”

“That idiot?” Shane said. “We’ll be long gone before he pulls his head outta his ass and gets here.”

Tucker let his grin turn dark. “I wouldn’t be so sure of that.”

He silently signaled Kane, pointing an index finger down—then tightening a fist. The command clear: threaten.

Kane lowered his head, bared his teeth, and let out a menacing growl. Still, the shepherd remained at his side. Kane wouldn’t move unless given another command or if this confrontation became physical.

Shane took a step back. “That mutt comes at me and I’ll bash his brains in.”

If this mutt comes at you, you’ll never know what hit you.

Tucker raised his hands. “Listen, guys, I get it. It’s Friday night, time to blow off some steam. All I’m asking is you find some other way of doing it. The people inside are just trying to make a living. Just like you and me.”

Shane snorted. “Like us? Them towelheads ain’t nothing like us. We’re Americans.”

“So are they.”

“I lost buddies in Iraq—”

“We all have.”

“What the hell do you know about it?” asked the third man.

“Enough to know the difference between these store owners and the kind of people you’re talking about.”

Tucker remembered his own reaction upon first entering the shop and felt a twinge of guilt.

Shane lifted his bat and aimed the end at Tucker’s face. “Get outta our way or you’ll regret siding with the enemy.”

Tucker knew the talking part of this encounter was over.

Proving this, Shane jabbed Tucker in the chest with the bat.

So be it.

Tucker’s left hand snapped out and grabbed the bat. He gave it a jerk, pulling Shane off balance toward him.

He whispered a command to his partner: “grab and drop.”

* * *

Kane hears those words—and reacts. He recognizes the threat in his target: the rasp of menace in his breath, the fury that has turned his sweat bitter. Tense muscles explode as the order is given. Kane is already moving before the last word is spoken, anticipating the other’s need, knowing what he must do.

He leaps upward, his jaws wide.

Teeth find flesh.

Blood swells over his tongue.

* * *

With satisfaction, Tucker watched Kane latch on to Shane’s forearm. Upon landing on his paws, the shepherd twisted and threw the combatant to the ground. The bat clattered across the concrete.

Shane screamed, froth flecking his words. “Get him off, get him off!”

One of the man’s friends charged forward, his bat swinging down toward Kane. Anticipating this, Tucker dove low and took the hit with his own body. Expertly blunting the blow by turning his back at an angle, he reached up and wrapped his forearm around the bat. He pinned it in place—then side kicked. His heel slammed into the man’s kneecap, triggering a muffled pop.

The man hollered, released the bat, and staggered backward.

Tucker swung his captured weapon toward the third attacker. “It’s over. Drop it.”

The last man glared, but he let the bat fall—

—then reached into his jacket and lashed out with his arm again.

Tucker’s mind barely had time to register the glint of a knife blade. He backpedaled, dodging the first slash. His heel struck the curb behind him, and he went down, crashing into a row of empty propane tanks and losing the bat.

Grinning cruelly, the man loomed over Tucker and brandished his knife. “Time to teach you a lesson about—”

Tucker reached over his shoulder and grabbed a loose propane tank as it rolled along the sidewalk behind him. He swung it low, cutting the man’s legs out from under him. With a pained cry of surprise, the attacker crashed to the ground.

Tucker rolled to him, snatched the man’s wrist, and bent it backward until a bone snapped. The knife fell free. Tucker retrieved the blade as the man curled into a ball, groaning and clutching his hand. His left ankle was also cocked sideways, plainly broken.

Lesson over.

He stood up and walked over to Shane, whose lips were compressed in fear and agony. Kane still held him pinned down, clamped on to the man’s bloody arm, his teeth sunk to bone.

“Release,” Tucker ordered.

The shepherd obeyed but stayed close, baring his bloody fangs at Shane. Tucker backed his partner up with the knife.

Sirens echoed through the forest, growing steadily louder.

Tucker felt his belly tighten. Though he’d acted in self-defense, he was in the middle of nowhere awaiting a sheriff who could arrest them if the whim struck him. Flashing lights appeared through the trees, and a cruiser swung fast into the parking lot and pulled to a stop twenty feet away.

Tucker raised his hands and tossed the knife aside.

He didn’t want anyone making a mistake here.

“Sit,” he told Kane. “Be happy.”

The dog dropped to his haunches, wagging his tail, his head cocked to the side quizzically.

Aasif joined him outside and must have noticed his tension. “Sheriff Walton is a fair man, Tucker.”

“If you say so.”

In the end, Aasif proved a good judge of character. It helped that the sheriff knew the trio on the ground and held them in no high opinion. These boys been raising hell for a year now, the sheriff eventually explained. So far, nobody’s had the sand to press charges against them.

Sheriff Walton took down their statements and noted the truck’s blacked-out license plate with a sad shake of his head. “I believe that would be your third strike, Shane. And from what I hear, redheads are very popular at the state pen this year.”

Shane lowered his head and groaned.

After another two cruisers arrived and the men were hauled away, Tucker faced the sheriff. “Do I need to stick around?”

“Do you want to?”

“Not especially.”

“Didn’t think so. I’ve got your details. I doubt you’ll need to testify, but if you do—”

“I’ll come back.”

“Good.” Walton passed him a card. Tucker expected it to have the local sheriff’s department’s contact information on it, but instead it was emblazoned with the image of a car with a smashed fender. “My brother owns a body-repair shop in Wisdom, next town down the highway. I’ll make sure he gets that flat tire of yours fixed at cost.”

Tucker took the card happily. “Thanks.”

With matters settled, Tucker was soon back on the road with Kane. He held out the card toward the shepherd as he sped toward his motel. “See, Kane. Who says no good deed goes unpunished?”

Unfortunately, he spoke too soon. As he turned into his motel and parked before the door to his room, his headlight shone upon an impossible sight.

Sitting on the bench before his cabin was a woman—a ghost out of his past. Only this figment wasn’t outfitted in desert khaki or in the blues of her dress uniform. Instead, she wore jeans and a light-blue blouse with an open wool cardigan.

Tucker’s heart missed several beats. He sat behind the wheel, engine idling, struggling to understand how she could be here, how she had found him.

Her name was Jane Sabatello. It had been over six years since he’d last set eyes on her. He found his gaze sweeping over her every feature, each triggering distinct memories, blurring past and present: the softness of her full lips, the shine of moonlight that turned her blond hair silver, the joy in her eyes each morning.

Tucker had never married, but Jane was as close as he’d come.

And now here she was, waiting for him—and she wasn’t alone.

A child sat at her side, a young boy tucked close to her hip.

For the briefest of moments, he wondered if the boy—

No, she would have told me.

He finally cut off the engine and stepped out of the vehicle. She stood up as she recognized him in turn.

“Jane?” he murmured.

She rushed to him and wrapped him in a hug, clinging to him for a long thirty seconds before pulling back. She searched his face, her eyes moist. Under the glare of the Cherokee’s headlamps, he noted a dark bruise under one cheekbone, poorly obscured by a smear of cosmetic concealer.

Even less hidden was the panic and raw fear in her face.

She kept one hand firmly on his arm, her fingers tight with desperation. “Tucker, I need your help.”

Before he could speak, she glanced to the boy.

“Someone’s trying to kill us.”

Our Authors Bios:

James Rollins

JAMES ROLLINS is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers, translated into more than forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the “top crowd pleasers” (New York Times) and one of the “hottest summer reads” (People magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets–and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight.

Catch Up with James Rollins on his Website 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗.

GRANT BLACKWOOD

In addition to his New York Times bestselling collaborations with Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy, GRANT BLACKWOOD is the author of three novels featuring Briggs Tanner: The End of Enemies, The Wall of Night, and An Echo of War. A U. S. Navy veteran, Grant spent three years as an Operations Specialist and a Pilot Rescue Swimmer. He lives in Colorado.

Catch Up with Grant Blackwood on his Website 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗

My Review

5 stars

Tucker Wayne is a retired Army Ranger. Tucker is surprised when Jane Sabstello meets him at his motel room with her son. Jane knows she is a target since several others she knows have been killed. Tucker looks into this and learns that drones are becoming more advanced. They are being programmed to adapt to different situations. It seems someone has big plans and is going to start using these AI drones to help him along. It’s up to Tucker and Kane to stop him.

When I think of drones, I think of the ones that most people have that just buzz around their neighbors or different areas around them. I tend to forget the military aspect. I loved the concept of how advanced they are in this story. It gives me the shivers thinking that such things could be happening now.

Tucker is a great character. He has his own issues but thankfully he has Kane to help him out. Kane is my favorite character for obvious reasons. I loved reading about both of them working together during fights and such. I’ve always wanted a dog like Kane.

I love James Rollins writing and can’t believe that I had missed this series. I have not read the first book, The Kill Switch, but didn’t feel like I was really missing anything by jumping right into War Hawk. I will definitely be adding The Kill Switch to my shelves and I can’t wait for the next book in this series.

I received War Hawk from Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for free. This has not influenced my opinion of this book.

Tour Participants:

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Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for James Rollins and William Morrow. There will be 14 US winners of one (1) PRINT copy of War Hawk by James Rollins. The giveaway begins on February 12th and runs through March 1st, 2017.

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Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh

Yasmin would give anything to have a friend… And do anything to keep them.

The first time I saw you, you were standing at the far end of the playing field. You were looking down at your brown straggly dog, your mouth going slack as your eyes clocked her. Alice Taylor.

I was no different. I’d catch myself gazing at the back of her head in class, at her thick fair hair swaying between her shoulder blades.

If you’d glanced just once across the field, you’d have seen me standing in the middle on my own looking straight at you, and you’d have gone back through the trees to the path quick, tugging your dog after you. You’d have known you’d given yourself away, even if only to me.

But you didn’t. You only had eyes for Alice.

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 Tasha Kavanagh

Author’s Bio

Tasha Kavanagh lives in Hertfordshire with her family and three cats. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, has worked as an editor on feature films, including ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’, ‘Twelve Monkeys’ and ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ and has had ten books for children published under her maiden name Tasha Pym. ‘Things We Have in Common’ is her first novel.

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My Review

5 stars

Yasmin is a teenager that is socially awkward and gets bullied because of her size. Her father passed away and she is having a difficult times dealing with this and compensates by eating, must to the disgrace of her mother. But one day she sees popular girl Alice and becomes obsessed with her. Yasmin is stalking her and collecting things left behind like hair bands and candy wrappers. Yasmin starts having made up conversations and fantasies of Alice and her.

Then Yasmin sees a man walking his dog, she calls him you, and decides that he is a pedophile and planning on targeting Alice. But the creepy part is Yasmin is not going to report him to the police until Alice disappears so she can be the hero that saves Alice. So, Yasmin starts stalking you. She finds someone that shares the same interests as her but she still has the fantasy that she is going to harm Alice in some way. Then Alice really does disappear.

This is a delightfully, creepy story. I had a like/hate relationship with Yasmin. I feel sorry for her because she lost her father and how food seems to fill the void. I loved how her size was portrayed without making it a focal point. I understood her being socially awkward and creating events in her mind. But when she started obsessing with Alice then you that took things to another level.

Yasmin becomes that creepy stalker that starts role playing the hero. And although she has found a kindred soul, she is still thinking about how he is going to kidnap or her Alice just so she could be the hero and get Alice’s love. If that wasn’t bad enough, the ending will have you screaming. I didn’t not expect it and can say I both hated and loved it.

It’s hard to believe that Things We Have in Common is a first book for Tasha Kavanagh. It flows, keeps you engrossed, and leaves you wanting more. Tasha is a rising star in my opinion and going to be a great addition to my keep shelf.

I received Things We Have in Common from the publisher for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.

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