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The Escape Artist by Brad Meltzer, Grand Central Publishing, US $28.00, Pp 400, March 2018, ISBN 978-1538746783

The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse by Alexander McCall Smith, Pantheon, US $25.95, Pp 248, April 2018, ISBN 978-1524747534

 The Kremlin’s Candidate (The Red Sparrow Trilogy)  by Jason Matthews,  Scribner,  US $26.99,  Pp 440, February 2018, ISBN 978-1501140082

Cave of Bones by Anne Hillerman, Harper, US $26.99, Pp 320, April 2018, ISBN 978-0062391926

A military plane takes off from a secret military base in Alaska and mysteriously falls from the sky shortly after the takeoff. All men and women on board die. Among the dead is Nola Brown. On behalf of the US government, the military base commanding officer confirms everybody including Nola Brown on the plane has died. It is by chance that Jim “Zig” Zigarowski finds out the truth that Nola Brown is still alive and on the run. Zig works at Dover Air Force Base where he helps manage the bodies of those who die while on secret missions. Zig’s daughter and Nola were childhood friends and Nola had once saved the life of Zig’s daughter. Zig feels it is his moral duty to find out the truth. As Zig investigates, he learns that there were too many problems in Nola’s life and troubles followed her everywhere. Nola is a painter and a US Army’s artist-in-residence. She is also a trained soldier who loves to go on military missions and to battlefields to make art from war’s aftermath. Her art is observations about today’s wars that would otherwise be forgotten. On her last mission, Nola saw something that earned him an enemy who would do anything to keep her quiet. Together, Nola and Zig will discover US Army’s most mysterious centuries-old secret and conspiracy that traces back to the greatest escape artist of all – Harry Houdini. In The Escape Artist, Brad Meltzer has created two conspiracy-focused memorable characters in Nola and Zig. Instead of usual police ambiance with private detectives sniffing around, The Escape Artist has two military protagonists uncovering the conspiracy mystery. It is a highly captivating novel.

Brad Meltzer is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Inner CircleThe Book of Fate, and seven other bestselling thrillers. In addition to his fiction, Brad is one of the only authors to ever have books on the bestseller list for nonfiction History Decoded, advice Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter, children’s books I Am Amelia Earhart and I Am Abraham Lincoln and even graphic books Justice League of America. He is also the host of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded on the History Channel, and Brad Meltzer’s Lost History on H2. He currently lives in Florida.

*****

Young and beautiful Val Eliot meets US Air Force pilot Mike during World War II. Mike is stationed on a base near the English farm where Val Eliot works. Both of them are animal-lovers especially dogs. Val rescues Border Collie named Peter Woodhouse from his cruel owner, she thinks the dog would be happy at Mike’s military base. When Val asks Mike if the dog can there, Mike happily accepts. Peter Woodhouse is happy at the US military base. Peter Woodhouse is a good reason for Val and Mike to meet more often which leads to Val falling in love with Mike and becoming engaged to him. Peter Woodhouse becomes Dog First Class, a canine mascot on the military base, who accompanies the officers on their military missions. Val and Mike decide to marry. Things look good until Peter Woodhouse brings Ubi, a German corporal, into the orbit that sparks a friendship but also poses risks for all of them. But it also brings richest of rewards. Alexander McCall Smith shows that love and the power of friendship can bring sworn enemies together even during worst of times like a war. The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse is a light love story. It is entertaining and relaxing at the same time. Alexander McCall Smith is a great storyteller who can enter the minds of his characters as well as his readers. This enthralling novel will take you away from your worries.

Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. He has written more than fifty books, including a number of specialist titles, but is best known for The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has achieved bestseller status on four continents. In 2004 he was awarded British Book Awards Author of the Year and Booksellers Association Author of the Year. He lives in Scotland, where in his spare time he is a bassoonist in the RTO (Really Terrible Orchestra).

*****

The Kremlin’s Candidate is set in Washington and Moscow, the capitals of two superpowers and archrivals. In Moscow, Russian president Vladimir Putin and his FSB (formerly KGB) officials are planning the assassination of a high-ranking US official so that he can be replaced with someone who is on the Russian payroll. Russian spies have cultivated this American mole for the last fifteen years to take up this role. But before the Russians are able to implement the plan, Dominika Egorova, Nate Nash, and their CIA colleagues learn about the Russian plan. If the Russians succeed, they will discover that Dominika is an American agent who has been spying for years for the CIA. In such a case, Dominika will surely be executed and America will lose access to its enemy’s secrets. This is where Jason Matthews, a thirty-three-year veteran of the CIA, uses his real-life experience to set unforgettable and breathtaking scenes on several continents — Moscow, Washington, DC, Hong Kong, New York, the Sudan, and Turkey. Jason Matthews does this by introducing two cold-blooded killers — Iosip Blokhin and Grace Gao. Iosip Blokhin is a brilliant Spetsnaz military officer, and Grace Gao is a ravishing Chinese spy, master of Kundalini yoga, and Beijing-trained seductress. All this leads to Putin’s inner circle meeting at the spectacular billion-dollar presidential palace on the Black Sea. Does Nate have to sacrifice himself to save his love Dominika? Or, does Dominika have to suffer the worst to save her lover Nate? Or do they go down together? As the Cold War era is back, spy novels involving America and Russia are not far behind. Jason Matthews’s highly entertaining third spy novel is as an irresistible thriller as the first two of the trilogy. It is a stunning and rattling spy novel. As a former CIA operative, Jason Matthews’s success lies in making every scene real and the story authentic. Jason Matthews has rightly been compared to John le Carré and Ian Fleming. He is a premier spy novelist of our time.

Jason Matthews is a retired officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate. Over a thirty-three-year career, he served in multiple overseas locations and engaged in the clandestine collection of national security intelli­gence, specializing in denied-area operations. Matthews conducted recruitment operations against Soviet, East European, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean targets. He is the author of Red SparrowPalace of Treason, and The Kremlin’s Candidate. He lives in Southern California.

*****

A young woman Annie accidentally stumbles upon a human skeleton when she is jogging on her trek. Annie is traumatized by this incident. They are however concerned about their beloved instructor who went out to find the girl into the wilds of the rugged lava wilderness bordering Ramah Navajo Reservation. The instructor has not returned since. The instructor disappeared somewhere in the volcanic landscape known as El Malpais. Tribal Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito suddenly has two mysteries to solve. As Tribal Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito makes progress in investigating the two mystery crimes, she comes face to face with the chilling reality of human evil. It appears the instructor’s disappearance is linked to an old case in which the legendary Joe Leaphorn played a crucial role. But before Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito discovers the truth, an unexpected blizzard, a suspicious accidental drowning, and the arrival of a new FBI agent complicate the investigation. Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito’s husband, Sergeant Jim Chee, is facing trouble closer to home. Sergeant Jim Chee discovers that a vengeful man he arrested and got imprisoned for domestic violence has been released from the prison and is in a relationship with Bernie’s sister Darleen. Chee is a family man and faces a dilemma because of this relationship. In Cave of BonesAnne Hillerman introduces us to Navajo traditions as well as the mountains and deserts in New Mexico where the reservation is located. The protagonist is Tribal Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito as opposed to a common police officer or private detective makes it doubly interesting. Anne Hillerman now consistently turns out some of the best-plotted and engrossing mysteries.

Anne Hillerman continues the mystery series her father, the best-selling author Tony Hillerman, created beginning in 1970. Anne’s debut novel, Spider Woman’s Daughter received the Spur Award from Western Writers of America for Best First Novel. Her second mystery in the series, Rock with Wings received the New Mexico Book Awards’ Founders’ Award. The third novel in the series, Song of the Lion, was released in April 2017. All three quickly become New York Times bestsellers. Anne is also the author of Tony Hillerman’s Landscape with husband/ photographer Don Strel. She lives and works in Santa Fe with frequent trips to the Navajo Nation.

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