An expertly crafted thriller that depicts personal drama amid an international scope, with intense action and relentless...

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THE UMBER CUBE

Frank O’Brien seems to have it all—a beautiful wife, a new baby and a rewarding job doing counter-terrorism work for the U.S. government—but when a plane carrying his wife crashes in South America, he’s forced into a dark underworld where the drug trade lords over all.

A follow-up to Wulff’s debut novel, Tropic of Darkness (2012), which also follows the exploits of Frank O’Brien, this sequel peppers in synopsis where needed and lures in new readers with immediate action. The opening chapter reveals a devastating plane crash and the supposed death of Esmeralda O’Brien. However, the plot shifts to the perspective of a survivor whom readers will be able to guess is Esmeralda, even if memory loss has made her unable to recognize herself. Beyond this narrative maneuver, the book is filled with massive plot twists; even the cleverest readers won’t be able to keep up with the ceaseless action. The rapid pacing helps intensify the sense of urgency the characters feel as they’re plunged into a world where the drug trade is more important than family, love or even life itself. Explosions, double-crosses and lethal alliances burst off the page with relentless intensity. But the narrative sometimes falters when it filters information through multiple perspectives, resulting in unnecessary repetition. Instead of allowing readers to process the information, or relating it through action, too much time is spent with characters merely talking about the titular Umber Cube, what it does and how bad it is. Events in the story already show the horrific consequences of the drug trade and how the Umber Cube substance has the potential to destroy thousands of lives, so when characters take significant amounts of time to reiterate what we already know, it seems superfluous. Still, it’s a relatively minor issue, and the rest of the story relates an intriguing depiction of a vast, multinational drug conspiracy with deeply personal fallout.

An expertly crafted thriller that depicts personal drama amid an international scope, with intense action and relentless pacing.

Pub Date: March 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475104028

Page Count: 382

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2012

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Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

NO REMORSE

Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.

Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.

Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0980806601

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Marq Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2012

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With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the...

OUT OF THE SHADOWS

Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.

Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?

With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0984991808

Page Count: 389

Publisher: First Snow Publishing House

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

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