The third book in Shannon Condon’s popular Magdalena series, Spider’s Web follows the titular character Maggie and her team of special ops, as they take on new missions from the safety of the Grid. Three years have passed since Maggie’s near fatal injury, but the memories and the scars still haunt her. Unfulfilled and depressed at home, Maggie is determined to reenter the field, whatever the cost. But she’s unsure of who to trust, and equally as unsure of the real world she’s kept herself away from. Before she even has time to plan her next move, Maggie finds herself kidnapped by an unknown foe while on holiday. With old enemies lurking at every turn, will she ever be able to escape the deadly web of her own making?
With plenty of twists, turns, and double crosses that will keep any reader guessing, Spider’s Web is a fast paced novel, part spy thriller, part crime fiction, and part character-driven drama. There’s enough action and adventure to keep mystery enthusiasts happy, and enough turmoil to keep contemporary fiction readers turning the pages. As much about Maggie as it is her kidnapping and the odyssey that follows, the Magdalena series’ third chapter proves Condon’s ability to entertain and enthrall, drawing us into the characters and the world she’s created.
Peripherally, Spider’s Web is a spy thriller, but Maggie is the core of the story. We learn more about her past, her family, and how all the pieces come together for her. Described as female James Bond, Maggie is an intriguing and complex character, whose hardened interior hides a soft, vulnerable core. Whether her anxieties and her panic attacks humanize her or isolate her, depends very much on the reader. For those that like their characters well rounded, if not flawed, Maggie will be a welcome relief from stock action heroes. But those uninterested in bouts of melancholic wallowing, may find that the heavy dialogue bogs down the storytelling at times. Less of a flaw than a marmite situation, Maggie makes or breaks the work, depending on which side of the fence you sit on.
Spider’s Web contains an involving story and some fine writing that is a satisfying read.
Pages: 406 | ASIN: B089QKY87S
Michelle is a CIA agent. She is good at her job, matter-of-fact, and knows when to pull back and avoid becoming emotionally involved in her assignments. Bella, however, changes all of that. When Michelle’s tactical team rescues Bella from an abusive and tortuous situation in Mosul, everything Michelle thought she understood about herself changes. Bella, kidnapped and held for two years by her captors, struggles to acclimate to life outside again, but Michelle, the reluctant chaperone, begins to make great strides in Bella’s reentry into a normal life. On a trip to New York City, Bella is kidnapped again–or is she?
Fly by Night, by Scott Shinberg, is book 3 in the Michelle Reagan spy series. The main character is outspoken, has her own set of quirks, and gets the job done. She is a likable main character whose actions and reactions keeps readers on their toes. Her determination and resolve to find out what has happened to Bella, the woman she had just begun to take under wing, is admirable and enviable.
I am drawn to characters who are richly developed and undergo major changes in levels of empathy. Michelle is a prime example of characters who do a complete turnabout. Though she maintains her rough and ready exterior, she clearly allows a soft spot to grow for the embattled Bella and the incredibly horrific journey she has endured.
Shinberg addresses sexual abuse and kidnapping, which may be triggering for some readers. Bella’s experience is one some readers may find uncomfortable reading about though Shinberg expertly weaves it into the story line and uses it to facilitate character development.
Bella’s kidnapping takes a very unexpected turn and, for me, changed the whole tone of the story to that point. I can’t say it was an unwelcome change, but it was definitely not what I had anticipated. Shinberg’s approach is unique and fits well into the genre.
Though Shinberg’s book is by and large, a fiction work that falls under the spy heading, the author manages to include bits of history and culture along the way. In many ways, Shinberg has made his book all the more believable as readers find themselves hit periodically with references to historical events.
I would recommend Fly by Night to anyone who enjoys the spy genre and is a fan of strong female characters. Michelle Reagan is a stand-out in this genre, and Fly by Night is a must-read.
Pages: 259 | ASIN: B08DLYY5LZ
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While in the Lake District, journalist Emmeline Kirby and jewel thief/insurance investigator Gregory Longdon overhear a man attempting to hire international assassin Hugh Carstairs, a MI5 agent who went rogue. They race back to London to warn Philip Acheson of the Foreign Office and Superintendent Oliver Burnell. But it’s a devil of problem to prevent a vicious killing, if the target is a mystery.
More trouble brews as Emmeline pursues a story about shipping magnate Noel Rallis, who is on trial for murder. Rallis is desperate to keep the negative publicity from exposing his illicit schemes, especially something sinister called Poseidon. Lord Desmond Starrett, whose dark past made him easy prey for blackmail, is getting cold feet about their dubious partnership. Hovering in the shadows of this ugly secret world is a Russian mole buried inside MI5. Scorned prima ballerina Anastasia Tarasova makes the fatal mistake of threatening to reveal all she knows. The hunt for the answers takes Emmeline and Gregory up to Scotland, where they learn that the truth has lethal consequences.
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John Cranston had no aspirations to be a spy. He was a gardener for goodness sake, and enjoyed the mediocrity that came with the job. But as is often the case, the unexpected came knocking and suddenly John found himself in the middle of a plot involving an old friend, the Russians, secret societies, and crooked cops- just to name a few. To make matters worse, they all seemed to think he was on par with them in regards to secrets and skills. As each day pulls him further from his business as usual, John has to uncover and help stop a sinister conspiracy that is revealed to be a matter of world security.
Pandora’s Gardener by David Mason is a fun and fast paced thriller that tows the line between the serious espionage of James Bond and the absurd escapades of Austin Powers. With each new obstacle that John comes across, Mason does an expert job of weaving the stories together until the reader is effectively hooked. To keep the mood from getting too heavy, even the situations that provide a real degree of danger are met with a ridiculous sense of humor that helps keep the events moving right along. It’s a classic tale of “good guys” versus “bad guys” but crafted in a way that makes it difficult to determine which is which, since so many of the characters are delightfully charming. The notable exception of course is our unlikely hero who insists, time and time again, that despite his apparent skills, he really is just a gardener. No one believes that, and hijinks ensue.
The sheer amount of plot lines, characters, and double crosses could potentially make for a dense and unreadable story, but instead everything works in perfect synch. As mentioned before, Mason is superb at crafting the story, ensuring that there is always something new around the corner, even as other loose ends are resolved. Every character adds a distinct flavor to the story, no matter how briefly they may appear, and while some of them aren’t given the resolution they may deserve, it doesn’t affect the tone of the book.
Pandora’s Gardner was enjoyable and fun to read from start to finish and if there is any complaint I have, it’s that it was long enough to consistently surprise me with its new developments, and that it never fully fleshed out John’s past, which was referred to occasionally. Even at that, I was never disappointed. It maintained an excellent balance between goofy and serious while John consistently plays the part of reluctant spy perfectly.
Tags: author, book, book review, bookblogger, David C Mason, ebook, espionage, fantasy, fiction, fun, funny, goodreads, humor, kindle, kobo, literature, mystery, nook, novel, Pandora's Gardener, read, reader, reading, satire, spy, story, suspense, thriller, writer, writing
Sometimes you have to dance in the minefield …
Navy SEAL, JD Cordell, is ready to retire and take his K9 partner, Ajax, with him. JD has exciting plans for a new life that includes the courageous and beautiful Doctor Ellen Chang he met on a mission in Niger.
But when JD’s father unexpectedly dies of cancer, his grieving mother, Mai, travels to Vietnam to search for her adopted Montagnard brother, a brother she hasn’t seen in over forty years. During her attempt to track him down, Mai unwittingly steps into a blood feud between her Montagnard brother and a powerful Vietnamese drug lord, a bitter hatred that began during the Vietnam War.
When his mother disappears into the seedy underbelly of Ho Chi Minh City, JD has no choice but to come out of retirement for one last explosive mission. And Ajax is with him all the way.
If you liked Serpents Underfoot, you’re going to love Montagnard. Order your copy now!
Another ghost returns when Maggie and her team are ordered to assassinate Russian crime boss Valdev Belevich, the man who took out a contract on Maggie’s life nearly two years ago. The team must go undercover at a casino resort in Northern Spain. Once there, the landscape quickly changes, and Maggie finds herself making a promise she should never keep.
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A suspenseful and complex fictional story of a well established business man entangled in a web of secrets and ambitious employees. With his past demons always haunting him he’ll face a series of perilous challenges that test his limits and his morality. Terence is forced to break into his boss’s safe and finds plans for a new technology that can radically change the world. Does he give it up and go back to his life, or does he risk his life to ensure the technology doesn’t end up in the wrong hands?
Robert Valdin has created a thrilling corporate espionage novel that places an interesting character at the center of an intricately woven web of secrets. The fun part is watching Terence claw his way out of the center of it. Newton’s Cradle is a techno-thriller that kept me intrigued by the technical details and furiously flipping pages to see what happens to Terence. What I enjoyed most was the interactions between characters as they seemed grounded and authentic. The backstabbing that was going on always seemed to come as a surprise to me, I suppose I’m gullible, but Robert Valdin has a way of subtly twisting the narrative to make you look the other way just before the twist comes.
Newton’s Cradle is an exciting novel that deftly builds up engaging characters and pits them against one another. The narrative, while not completely unique, does have its own unique twists that kept me on my toes. With a world changing premise Robert Valdin delivers an electrifying story that will have fans of mystery and espionage begging for more.
Pages: 230 | ASIN: B08BV2QMT8
Michelle Reagan, alias Eden, is a CIA covert operator who conducts secret missions all over the world, and does what only a few can: take away someone’s life without getting caught. But having an undercover profession like this is not easy. Michelle works hard to be successful and gain the recognition of her boss and colleagues while trying to maintain a personal life and relationship. Every day, Michelle has to live with a burden, the moral consequences of killing innocent people. But can she handle it without going insane? And can she succeed and stay alive in this dangerous, male-dominated career?
The Confessions of Eden by Scott Shinberg is by far the best espionage thriller I have read this year: rich in action, danger, and unexpected turns. The plot is made up of Michelle’s reminiscences. This novel serves as her memoir in which she tells her story. The missions mentioned in the book are gripping and adventurous and filled with dangerous events. I liked the way the short stories and the descriptions of the missions came after each other and, despite the time gaps, there was no break in the story line, everything just falls into place to create a bigger story.
Michelle Reagan is an ambitious, hard-working agent, or assassin, who grows more confident as the story progresses. At first, she suffers from the psychological consequences of killing someone whose only fault is to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, but then, as her character develops and transforms from Michelle into Eden, she learns how to handle it. Her boss Michael and her two colleagues play an important role in Michelle’s life, and I appreciated how they supported her character development and I felt like they bring out another dimension to her character which really rounds her out. Because Michelle’s private life is built upon lies, she has difficulties finding and keeping a partner without getting exposed. This contrast between personal and private lives is something that I found intriguing and well balanced in this book.
Scott Shinberg is a talented author who can make you feel like you are in the middle of a CIA office with undercover agents. He catches the reader’s attention with the very first sentence and holds it right to the end. I look forward to reading the next Michelle Reagan novel.
Pages: 333 | ASIN: B07PTPHTXS