Guest Post: Jon Land – MURDER ON THE METRO

Good day, my bookish peeps. I hope you all had a wonderful week and got some reading in. One of the best things about starting a book blog has been my introduction to some wonderful authors that simply weren’t on my bookish radar before (I know, I was a very sheltered and limited reader, reading the authors I knew or were listed in the backs of books I’d just read). Several years ago, I had the pleasure of reading one of Jon Land’s Caitlin Strong books and I was hooked. (Seriously, if you haven’t read this series, check out my reviews, grab these books, and count yourself lucky that you’re now in the know.) Needless to say, when I heard that a favorite author, i.e., Jon Land, was taking over another favorite author’s series, I was delighted and intrigued as to how said series might proceed. Today, I am beyond happy to welcome acclaimed author Jon Land to the blog and he’ll be discussing taking over the legacy series, Capital Crimes begun by the late Margaret Truman with Murder On The Metro. Please help me welcome Jon Land to the blog. Thank you, Mr. Land, for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by today. I’m honored to turn the blog over to you.

 

TAKING OVER A LEGACY

My attitude in the book business has long been, “The answer’s yes. What was the question?”

In other words, never turn down an opportunity, because you don’t know how long it will be before you get another, especially when it comes to taking over a legacy series like Margaret Truman’s Capital Crimes. Fortune had struck for the second time, in the wake of my similarly taking over the equally legendary Murder, She Wrote series.

I’d jumped at that opportunity too, then landed awkwardly—by which I mean the fit wasn’t right. In endeavoring to make the series my own, I diverted from the cozy formula and made Murder, She Wrote into what the television series was and the books should have been. By time I really found my voice, Berkley had decided “to go in another direction” with a different writer. Truth be told, I think I placed more value and ambition in the series than anyone else at the company who mostly seemed to be going through the motions. You know: Been there, done that, doing it again. Good people for the most part, but there are a couple who would be best advised to move to the other side of the street if they see me coming.

The Capital Crimes series was a much more positive experience right from the start. First off, these books fell squarely within my comfort zone, mystery thrillers in others words. Second, Capital Crimes is published by Forge, my own publisher who’s responsible for bringing my Caitlin Strong books to life. I knew it was the right fit, and this time my ambition to bring a legacy series to the next level was greeted with smiles instead of shrugs.

The first thing I wanted to do was bring the series back to its roots from a branding standpoint. The first 25 or so books that carried only Margaret Truman’s name on the cover all were branded around titles that began with Murder followed by a location in Washington, the first of which was Murder In The White House. But the last half dozen titles had deviated from that.

Alas, not anymore.

Since my initial offering dealt in one of the plotlines with the murder of the vice president, my original title was Murder At The Admiral’s House after the name once given to the vice president’s residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory. Except nobody knew that. Good thing the book happened to open with a failed terrorist attack on the Washington Metro. Hence the title, Murder On The Metro. Oh man, how much better is that?

Forge came up with the brilliant cover you’re probably looking at now. I had found my footing almost from page one on this one, the book written in the style I’d favored since starting down this road as a student at Brown University in the late 70’s: multiple converging plotlines, multiple points of view, conflict-riddled characters who evolve, and the opportunity to go big, I mean really BIG, as far as the story goes.

My editor Bob Gleason, who’s the best in the business, had been instrumental in gaining the freedom of Sister Megan Rice, an eighty-five-year-old nun who’d been sentenced to a stretch in federal prison for trespassing on federal property—specifically the Y-12 nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Why not, Bob and my brilliant publisher Tom Doherty suggested, center my first Capital Crimes book around Sister Megan’s real-life exploits? That conversation took place over dinner at the fabulous Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal, Murder On The Metro born not far from the raw bar and lobster tank.

I inherited international private investigator Robert Brixton from my predecessor, Don Bain, but felt right from the start that I could do more with him. Don had the wisdom a few books back to have Brixton lose his oldest daughter to a terrorist bombing in a restaurant where they were lunching. Sensing something’s awry, Brixton tells her they have to leave and starts from the table. He’s outside before he realizes his daughter didn’t follow him and then BOOM!

I picked up Brixton’s character from there, five years after the bombing. He’s not the man he used to be by a longshot, plagued by guilt and grief. Having him thwart that attempted terrorist bombing on the Metro starts him down the road to redemption, to becoming the man he was before his daughter’s death and more. I had nailed the emotional core of my story, that thing that makes you care about the hero who’s driving the action.

I knew I needed another hero, a Secret Service agent similarly guilt-ridden after the vice president dies on her watch. But Agent Kendra Rendine suspects the VP was murdered and needs Brixton’s help to prove it. I thought I had my structure then and there, but something was still missing, and that’s where retired Israeli commando Lia Ganz (aka, the Lioness of Judah) enters the scene in a third plotline.

You know, I think Murder On The Metro just might the first thriller whose hero and heroine, Brixton and Ganz, are both grandparents. And that’s kind of organic to the story because so many of the readers who grew up on this series are now grandparents themselves. I knew I had something, that the book was clicking, right from the get-go, because I was enjoying the hell out of writing it. I get asked so often what’s the most important advice I give younger or beginning writers and I used to say, “Tell a great story.” Now I say “Have fun telling a great story.” Because if you’re having fun writing the book, the reader is going to have fun reading it. Simple as that, in my mind anyway.

Murder On The Metro‘s been out a while now and the response (Knock on wood!!!) has been pretty terrific. After being skewered by a hefty number of Murder, She Wrote fans initially, I can’t tell you how great that feels. Taking over a legacy like Capital Crimes is like raising somebody else’s kid after they reach their teenage years: You know what you want the kid to turn into, but you’re not exactly sure of everything that brought him or her to this point.

But raising that kid means loving and taking ownership of where he or she goes from here. That’s exactly the way I feel about the Capital Crimes series. Whatever happened before, it’s mine now, starting with Murder On The Metro. And as much as I love that book, I think my next one, Murder At The CDC, might even be better.

What’s Murder At The CDC about, you ask? Well, in a nutshell— Oops, sorry. I’ve hit my word limit. Guess you’ll have to wait until the same time next year to hear the rest! Happy reading until then!

 

Murder On The Metro

by Jon Land

March 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

 

Israel: A drone-based terrorist attack kills dozens on a sun-splashed beach in Caesarea.

Washington: America awakens to the shattering news that Vice President Stephanie Davenport has died of an apparent heart attack.

That same morning, a chance encounter on the Washington Metro results in international private investigator Robert Brixton thwarting an attempted terrorist bombing. Brixton has no reason to suspect that the three incidents have anything in common, until he’s contacted by Kendra Rendine, the Secret Service agent who headed up the vice president’s security detail. Rendine is convinced the vice president was murdered and needs Brixton’s investigative expertise to find out why.

In Israel, meanwhile, legendary anti-terrorist fighter Lia Ganz launches her own crusade against the perpetrators of that attack which nearly claimed the lives of her and granddaughter. Ganz’s trail will ultimately take her to Washington where she joins forces with Brixton to uncover an impossible link between the deadly attack on Caesarea and the attempted Metro bombing, as well as the death of the vice president.

The connection lies in the highest corridors of power in Washington where a deadly plot with unimaginable consequences has been hatched. With the clock ticking toward doomsday, Brixton and Ganz race against time to save millions of American lives who will otherwise become collateral damage to a conspiracy destined to change the United States forever.

Praise :

“Jon Land is one of the best thriller writers in the business, and the Capital Crimes series is in superb and skilled hands with him. Nobody does pacing better than Land, and Murder On The Metro starts with a bang and keeps on going at breakneck speed. If you haven’t read this excellent series, start with Land’s Murder On The Metro.” —Lisa Scottoline, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Forge Books
Publication Date: February 16th 2021
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 1250238870 (ISBN13: 9781250238870)
Series: A Capital Crimes Novel, #31
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

 

Author - Jon LandJON LAND is the USA Today bestselling author of over fifty books, including eleven in the critically acclaimed Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong series, the most recent of which, Strong from the Heart, won the 2020 American Fiction Award for Best Thriller and the 2020 American Book Fest Award for Best Mystery/Suspense Novel. Additionally, he has teamed up with Heather Graham for a science fiction series that began with The Rising (winner of the 2017 International Book Award for best Sci-fi Novel) and continues with Blood Moon. He has also written six books in the Murder, She Wrote series of mysteries and has more recently taken over Margaret Truman’s Capital Crimes series, beginning with Murder On The Metro in February of 2021. A graduate of Brown University, he received the 2019 Rhode Island Authors Legacy Award for his lifetime of literary achievements. Land lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Catch Up With Jon Land:
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Goodreads
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2020 Book 308: STRONG FROM THE HEART by Jon Land


Strong from the Heart

by Jon Land

on Tour August 17 – September 18, 2020



Strong From The Heart (Caitlin Strong #11) by Jon Land
ISBN: 9780765384706 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780765384713 (ebook)
ASIN: B07WPNFP54  (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: July 28, 2020


Caitlin Strong wages her own personal war on drugs against the true power behind the illicit opioid trade in Strong from the Heart, the blistering and relentless 11th installment in Jon Land’s award-winning series.

The drug crisis hits home for fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong when the son of her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters nearly dies from an opioid overdose. On top of that, she’s dealing with the inexplicable tragedy of a small Texas town where all the residents died in a single night.

When Caitlin realizes that these two pursuits are intrinsically connected, she finds herself following a trail that will take her to the truth behind the crisis that claimed 75,000 lives last year. Just in time, since the same force that has taken over the opiate trade has even more deadly intentions in mind, specifically the murder of tens of millions in pursuit of their even more nefarious goals.

The power base she’s up against—comprised of politicians and Big Pharma, along with corrupt doctors and drug distributors—has successfully beaten back all threats in the past. But they’ve never had to deal with the likes of Caitlin Strong before and have no idea what’s in store when the guns of Texas come calling.

At the root of the conspiracy lies a cabal nestled within the highest corridors of power that’s determined to destroy all threats posed to them. Caitlin and Cort Wesley may have finally met their match, finding themselves isolated and ostracized with nowhere to turn, even as they strive to remain strong from the heart.





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Since the inception of the Texas Rangers, there has been a member of the Strong family serving as a Ranger. Caitlin Strong is a fifth-generation Texas Ranger and just as fierce and awe-inspiring as her forebears. One of the many things I enjoy about reading the Caitlin Strong series is how Caitlin’s present-day adventures often mirror those of her father, grandfather, great-grandfather, or great-great-grandfather. In Strong From the Heart, Caitlin is battling enemies on several fronts, including one with a very personal link to the children she’s helping to raise with her significant other, Cort Wesley Masters. Dylan Torres, Cort Wesley’s youngest son, has recently suffered an opioid overdose and the drugs were provided to him at his boarding school. Although Caitlin and Cort Wesley have often battled against enemies that have brought the fight a bit too close to home for comfort, this one has far-reaching ties and may require all of the help they can muster. While Caitlin is trying to reign in Cort Wesley from eliminating all drug dealers from the face of Texas, she must also work to find out who caused the deaths of close to 300 residents of a border town and the subsequent murder of a survivor. Will Caitlin and Cort Wesley be able to find the answers to their family’s drug issue before it’s too late? Is it possible the deaths of the border town residents due to cyanide gas are linked to the opioid crisis and if so, how and who is responsible? If the deaths aren’t linked to the opioid crisis, then what was the reason for the deaths and who is responsible?

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, then you know I enjoy re-reading books. Yes, I often re-read books when I should be reading new books. So of course, I spent the past eight days re-reading the entire Caitlin Strong series in preparation for reading the newest addition, Strong From the Heart I know, I know, I’ve told you that I love this series. You probably thought I was exaggerating. I wasn’t. I read the newest addition in one day even though I was dealing with a severe migraine AND back spasms. Let me tell you when you can’t comfortably sit upright or even recline, your pain medication isn’t working, and you can’t turn on a light or even have any music playing in the background but you continue to read, then you must enjoy the book you’re reading, right?! I recently described Caitlin Strong as a combination of Wonder Woman, Annie Oakley, and the Lone Ranger. She’s someone that is always out seeking the truth and fighting for justice no matter what. Caitlin isn’t exactly a social advocate, but she does constantly get into “good trouble” by fighting for what’s right. She’s willing to stand up for the underdog even against seemingly insurmountable odds and she isn’t afraid to go up against anyone, including the federal government when necessary. Case in point, she begins in Strong From the Heart by thwarting ICE agents from “taking several school children into custody” by putting them into “protective custody” as “material witnesses” for the Texas Rangers. She stands up against Homeland Security on a regular basis and has even stood up against US Senators. Strong From the Heart brings back a number of cast regulars, including Captain D.W. Tepper – Caitlin’s Texas Ranger boss, Colonel Guillermo Paz – a former Venezuelan Colonel/assassin/current guardian anger, Cort Wesley Masters – Caitlin’s significant other/former mob enforcer/retired military, Dylan Torres – Cort Wesley’s eldest son and current student at Brown University, Luke Torres – Cort Wesley’s youngest son and current boarding student at the Village School in Houston, Jones/Smith – former Homeland Security agent, Dr. Whatley – Rangers’ pathologist, Nola Delgado – Caitlin’s half-sister/assassin/pseudo-pharmaceutical representative, William Ray Strong – Caitlin’s great-grandfather and a Texas Ranger, and Pancho Villa (yes, that Pancho Villa). As always with a Caitlin Strong story, there are bad guys and worse guys. One of the bad guys in this story is an “enforcer” that seems to enjoy killing for the sake of killing and suffers from “congenital insensitivity to pain” or an inability to feel physical pain. (You can tell that’s not going to end well.) The worse guys, in my estimation, are the ones that have hired the enforcer and are willing to do whatever it takes to protect themselves and their goals, which is ultimately making money and gaining more power. This story has a lot going on, as with all of the Caitlin Strong stories, including family angst and drama, government intrigue, behind-the-scenes power-brokering, prescription pain addiction, legal and illegal drug dealing (on a massive scale), mass murder, intrigue, and more. Yes, I could give you specifics, but if I did you wouldn’t want or need to read the book and you really need to read this book! Seriously, if you’re into suspense, thrillers, or books filled with twisted action and believable (and unbelievable but in a good way) characters, then you’ll want to read this book. For those of you that are just as addicted to Caitlin’s exploits as I am, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Strong From the Heart if you haven’t already purchased a copy. For those of you that haven’t already started the Caitlin Strong series, spend your staycation by starting with book one in this series, Strong Enough to Die, and read all the way through to Strong From the Heart. Trust me after the first book, you’ll be just as hooked as I am. The books are well-written, the stories well researched, the characters realistic, and the action based on real-life scenarios. I look forward to reading more about Caitlin and her exploits accompanied by her band of misfits in the future (okay, they’re more like a dysfunctional family than misfits, but you get the point). I really don’t want this series to end and am hoping that there were be a few more additions to the Caitlin Strong series before it eventually ends. So, while I wait for the next Caitlin Strong book, I’ll probably spend some time re-reading a few books in this series to tide me over.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss+ Edelweiss+ and NetGalley NetGalley courtesy of Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Author Bio:



Jon Land

Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of fifty-two books, including eleven featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. The critically acclaimed series has won more than a dozen awards, including the 2019 International Book Award for Best Thriller for Strong as Steel. He also writes the CAPITAL CRIMES series and received the 2019 Rhode Island Authors Legacy Award for his lifetime of literary achievements. A graduate of Brown University, Land lives in Providence, Rhode Island.




Catch Up With Jon Land On:


JonLandBooks.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!



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Enter To Win!:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jon Land. There will be five (5) winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on August 17, 2020, and runs through September 20, 2020. Void where prohibited.


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2019 Book 135: STRONG AS STEEL by Jon Land

Strong As Steel (Caitlin Strong #10) by Jon Land
ISBN: 9780765384676 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780765384690 (ebook)
ASIN: B07C75H648 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication Date: April 23, 2019


Tough-as-nails Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong returns in this electrifying tenth installment of the series, by USA Today bestselling author Jon Land

1994: Texas Ranger Jim Strong investigates a mass murder on a dusty freight train linked to a mysterious, missing cargo for which no record exists.

The Present: His daughter, fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, finds herself on the trail of that same cargo when skeletal remains are found near an excavation site in the Texas desert. She’s also dealing with the aftermath of a massacre that claimed the lives of all the workers at a private intelligence company on her watch.

These two cases are connected by a long-buried secret, one that men have killed and died to protect. Caitlin and her outlaw lover Cort Wesley Masters must prove themselves to be as strong as steel to overcome a bloody tide that has been rising for centuries.





Purchase Links: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | B&N Nook | Books-A-Million | Kobo


Caitlin Strong is a fifth generation Texas Ranger and a throwback to the days when the Rangers were considered fierce and awe-inspiring law enforcement officers. Her latest adventures mirror her father’s adventures from 25 years ago and it has to do with lost cargo, deaths from an unknown cause, a fearless Mexican cartel leader known as the Red Widow Spider, and a mysterious religious group known as the Order. Twenty-five years ago, Caitlin’s father, Jim Strong along with D.W. Tepper, was investigating the mysterious deaths of three men found on a train along with the murders of the train crew and several hired guns. That investigation led to a trip to Mexico and an encounter with the infamous Red Widow Spider or Luna Diaz Delgado. That meeting eventually led to Jim Strong rescuing Luna from a hit squad sent by the Order. Twenty-five years later and Caitlin is dealing with a local computer company with ties to Homeland Security that has been decimated by another hit squad sent by the Order. Caitlin’s significant other, Cort Wesley Masters is dealing with his own problems as he’s recently suffered a TIA (transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke) that has caused a partial paralysis of his right hand and arm. His eldest son, Dylan, is preparing to head back to college after taking a year off and seems to have been targeted by a pharmaceutical sales representative that is quite interested in both Cort Wesley and Caitlin in addition to being attracted to Dylan. Caitlin’s protector, Colonel Guillermo Paz, has recently escaped from a near hanging in Caracas and is back in Texas working at a preschool. Their Homeland security link, Jones, is working behind the scenes to try and figure out what was taken off of the train 25 years ago, where it has been hidden all this time, what exactly was in the freight, and why so many people want it. Little does Jones know that Caitlin is trying to answer the same questions and the answers just might be the end of the world as we know it.

I’ve read all of the previous Caitlin Strong novels and just when I think it can’t get any better, Mr. Land releases a new book with a storyline that knocks me off my feet. I wish I could say I read Strong as Steel in one sitting, but I had to take multiple breaks due to migraine headaches. This story pulled me from the very beginning and it was difficult to see where Mr. Land was leading because there are several twists and turns in the story (no, I’m not revealing what they are!) but the action and storyline packs quite a punch. I enjoyed revisiting with Caitlin, Cort Wesley, Dylan, Captain D.W. Tepper, Jim Strong, Jones, Guillermo, and Young Roger (a Texas Ranger tech guru). There were a number of interesting characters introduced in this storyline, including Dylan’s paramour – Selina Escalante,  the Red Widow Spider – Luna Diaz Delgado, and just one of the bad guys to beat bad guys – Enrico Molinari – an enforcer/assassin for the Order. There’s a lot of action in this story and at first it seems like it will be taking a pseudo-religious turn like The DaVinci Code, well it kind of, sort of does, but not really (trust me, that will make sense when you read the book). Strong as Steel offers a darn good suspense-thriller read with some violence, drama, religious turmoil, and more. Yes, I enjoyed reading Strong as Steel and highly recommend it to anyone that has read the previous books in this series. If you’re a fan of suspense or thrillers or like to read books with a lot of action, then I encourage you to read the entire Caitlin Strong series. I can’t wait to see what happens next with Caitlin and friends.


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author/publisher via Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Author Bio:



Jon Land

Jon Land is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of 50 books, including ten titles in the critically acclaimed Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong series, the last of which, Strong to the Bone, won both the 2017 American Book Fest and 2018 International Book Award for Best Mystery. The next title in the series, Strong As Steel, was published in April. Manuscript For marked his second effort writing as Jessica Fletcher for the Murder, She Wrote series, and he has also teamed with Heather Graham for a new sci-fi series starting with The Rising. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University, lives in Providence, Rhode Island.


Catch Up With Our Jon Land at:


jonlandbooks.com, Goodreads, Twitter @jondland, & Facebook!



Tour Participants:


Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!





Enter To Win!:



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jon Land. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on April 22, 2019 and runs through May 23, 2019.  Void where prohibited.


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2017 Book 409: STRONG TO THE BONE by Jon Land



Strong to the Bone (Caitlin Strong Novel #9) by Jon Land
ISBN: 9780765384645 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780765384669 (ebook)
ASIN: B06XK6QSKH (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 5, 2017 
Publisher: Forge


Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong takes on a gang of neo-Nazis in Strong to the Bone, an action-packed novel of the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series by Jon Land

1944: Texas Ranger Earl Strong investigates a triple murder inside a Nazi POW camp in Texas.

The Present: His granddaughter, fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, finds herself pursuing the killer her grandfather never caught in the most personal case of her career a conspiracy stretching from that Nazi POW camp to a modern-day neo-Nazi gang.

A sinister movement has emerged from the shadows of history, determined to undermine the American way of life. Its leader, Armand Fisker, has an army at his disposal, a deadly bio-weapon, and a reputation for being unbeatable. But he’s never taken on the likes of Caitlin Strong and her outlaw lover, Cort Wesley Masters.

To prevent an unspeakable cataclysm, Caitlin and Cort Wesley must win a war the world thought was over.  



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Caitlin Strong, Texas Ranger, is back and starts things off with a blast…of water. Caitlin’s current day story begins in Austin, Texas where she has delivered a speech to law enforcement officers. After she and her lover, Cort Westley Masters, eat dinner and attend a show, there’s a ruckus down the street at Stubb’s Barbeque when a university party gets out of control and a woman has been sexually assaulted. It’s virtually impossible to get inside, so Caitlin commandeers a fire truck and uses a fire hose to blast the drunken collegiates out of the way. She finds the assault victim, shooting a suspect in the process, and considers her job done. Until she’s told the DNA from this assault victim matches the DNA collected from her rape kit 18-years ago. That’s one blast from the past that Caitlin could have done without. Now, she’s told she can’t investigate the assault case by none other than Jones at Homeland Security, but when does Caitlin ever truly follow orders. If that isn’t enough to contend with, the medical examiner, along with Captain D.W. Tepper, and even Jones fill Caitlin in on one of her grandfather’s cases from 1944 dealing with the Nazis in prison camps in Texas. Just to throw a little icing on the cake, so to speak, Cort Westley’s eldest son, Dylan, is still on sabbatical from college and is working at a garage with a Mexican-Americans of the legal and illegal variety AND he’s started mouthing off to a bunch of neo-Nazis harassing schoolgirls and others in the community. Things quickly go downhill from there with the neo-Nazi international drug cartel, the rape/assault cases, and more. Can Caitlin deal with the emotional and psychological trauma of her rape while continuing to investigate the current assault case, even if she’s not supposed to be investigating said case? What will happen to Dylan if he continues to stand up for what is right against insurmountable odds? What could possibly link Earl Strong’s 1944 case with the 2017 investigation into the neo-Nazis?

Strong to the Bone by Jon Land is another amazingly fast-paced, thrill-packed, and suspense-filled read. Mr. Land packs quite a punch when he presents his Caitlin Strong stories and I love every single one of them. Strong to the Bone, as most Caitlin Strong stories, begins with an older story about the Texas Rangers (usually one featuring Caitlin’s father or grandfather) that loosely ties to the current story being told. Each section of the book is prefaced with a bit of Ranger history or lore. Then we get to Caitlin, who is a throwback to the Rangers of yore, and doesn’t always do things “by the book” (I’m not even sure she’s read the book, but it works for her). I love reading each new Caitlin Strong book because I feel as if I’m visiting long-lost friends, such as Cort Westley Masters, Caitlin’s lover; Colonel Guillermo Paz, Caitlin’s erstwhile friend and protector and former would-be assassin; Captain D.W. Tepper, Caitlin’s boss and Texas Ranger leash-holder; and Jones (formerly Smith) with Homeland Security. Does it seem strange that Caitlin has a long list of friends and protectors and they’re all male? Not to me, she doesn’t really need these protectors because she can definitely take care of herself, but she inspires that sense of loyalty in people, especially men. Strong to the Bone introduces us to some really nasty bad guys along with returning cast of favorites. Armand Fisker took over the Aryan Brotherhood from his father and grew it into what is basically the equivalent of a Fortune 500 international business (without the taxes). Davey Skoll is a former hedge fund manager turned pharmaceutical company owner. He raised the prices of several older drugs almost 10,000% in order to make a profit (sounds vaguely familiar) and is also in cahoots (love that word) with Fisker to supply Oxycodone and Vicodin in massive quantities. Yes, there’s a lot going on in Strong to the Bone, but everything intersects towards the end (no, I won’t tell you how…read the book!). I enjoy the multiple storylines, the characters (even the bad guys), the action, and the settings. I know that I’ve said it before with this series, but if you enjoy reading suspense thrillers then you really need to read this book and this series. I’ve probably told you that about four or five times now already. What on earth are you waiting for?! Start from the beginning and work your way up to Strong to the Bone or read this and then go back to the beginning. I’m looking forward to reading the next Caitlin Strong story because I need to know what happens next! Before I forget, yes I enjoyed reading Strong to the Bone and will probably be rereading it along with the others in this series before the next book is released.


Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author/publisher via Partners In Crime Tours. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Author Bio:


Jon Land

Jon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of 43 books, including eight titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense), Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller, and Strong Light of Day which won the 2016 International Book Award for Best Thriller-Adventure, the 2015 Books and Author Award for Best Mystery Thriller, and the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Mystery. Strong Cold Dead became the fourth title in the series in a row to win the International Book Award in 2017 and about which Booklist said, “Thrillers don’t get any better than this,” in a starred review. Land has also teamed with multiple New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham on a new sci-fi series, the first of which, The Rising, was published by Forge in January of 2017. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University and lives in Providence, Rhode Island.


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Tour Participants:

Visit the other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!


Giveaway:



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jon Land. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com gift Card AND 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Strong To The Bone by Jon Land. The giveaway begins on December 4 and runs through February 2, 2018.


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2016 Book 349: STRONG COLD DEAD by Jon Land

Strong Cold Dead (Caitlin Strong #8) by Jon Land
ISBN: 9780765335135 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781466821088 (ebook)
ASIN: B01CXNZDIU (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 4, 2016 
Publisher: Forge Books


Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong returns in Jon Land’s Strong Cold Dead, a thriller with heart-stopping action and a high-stakes terrorist plot

The terrorist organization ISIS is after a deadly toxin that could be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. The same toxin holds the potential to eradicate cancer. There is a frantic race to see who can get to it first, even as Caitlin Strong begins to assemble the disparate pieces of a deadly puzzle.

At the center of that puzzle is an Indian reservation where a vengeful tycoon is mining the toxin, disguising his effort as an oil-drilling operation. This is the same reservation where Caitlin’s great-great-grandfather, also a Texas Ranger, once waged a similar battle against the forces of John D. Rockefeller.

In her highest-stakes adventure yet, Caitlin Strong faces off against a host of adversaries that just might include the beautiful Comanche girl with whom the son of her ex-outlaw boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters has fallen in love, along with a mythic monster culled from Native American folklore that the tribe believes has risen to protect its land. The lives of those Caitlin loves most are threatened by the villains she’s pursuing; her own moral code is challenged. The fate of both the country and the state she loves are dangling on the precipice of a strong cold death.  



History seems to be repeating itself with the Strong family front and center as representatives of the Texas Rangers. In the nineteenth century, Caitlin’s great-great-grandfather, Steeldust Jack Strong, fought a legendary oil man to protect the autonomy of a Comanche reservation. Now Caitlin is fighting against a slimy oil man and an international terrorist group in order to protect her family and the same Comanche reservation in Strong Cold Dead by Jon Land.

Caitlin Strong is a Texas Ranger from a long-line of Texas Rangers (her father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather were all Rangers). She is a one-person wrecking team, subscribing to the kick-butt first, ask questions later methodology. Her method works and has tons of consequences but works nonetheless. Caitlin single-handedly stops what is building up to be a city-wide riot between Austen police and a local gang by having a retired Ranger drop an aerial stink bomb over the gang territory in an effort to subdue the gang and arrest the gang leader. Needless to say, the riot is stopped in its tracks but Caitlin is front-and-center as the person responsible for hundreds of homes being stink bombed. The very next day, she is called to a Comanche reservation because her lover’s son is protesting against a drilling company when he should be a thousand miles away at school. Who knew something as benign as a protest over drilling would lead to international terrorism? In a race to beat the clock, Caitlin, her lover Cort Westley Masters, her guardian-protector Guillermo Paz, a Homeland Security agent, and even a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer must work together to stop these terrorists in their tracks.

Strong Cold Dead is the eighth book in the Caitlin Strong series by Mr. Land. I found it to be a fast-paced, thrill a minute, and engrossing read. Caitlin and friends must contend with a Comanche shaman that is reportedly over one hundred and forty years old, a curse that supposedly protects the reservation and its inhabitants, a disreputable oil man, a malcontented and disenfranchised young man tired of being bullied, and an international terrorist group whose leader seems to be making up the religious rules as he goes along. Mr. Land takes the reader on a few twists and turns before the final pages and there worth it. Yes, there’s a lot packed into this story and there are wannabe bad guys, bad guys, and really loathsome evil guys. Once again, Mr. Land has mixed a historical storyline with a contemporary storyline and it works. I could go on and on about Caitlin and this story, but all you really need to know is that if you enjoy reading suspense thrillers, then you’ll want to read this book. Did I enjoy reading Strong Cold Dead? Yes, I did and something tells me I’ll be rereading the entire Caitlin Strong series while I’m waiting for the next installment. (Yes, this series is just that good!)


Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book for review purposes via Partners In Crime Tours. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Author Bio:

Jon LandJon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of 38 novels, including eight titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense), Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller and Strong Light of Day which won the 2016 International Book Award for Best Thriller-Adventure, the 2015 Books and Author Award for Best Mystery Thriller, and the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Mystery. The latest title in the series is Strong Cold Dead, to be published on October 4 and about which Strand Magazine said is “certain to rank Land among a handful of our most talented thriller authors of this decade.” Land has also teamed with multiple New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham on a new sci-fi series, the first of which, The Rising, will be published by Forge in January of 2017. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University and lives in Providence, Rhode Island.


Catch Up with Jon on his website and on Twitter & Facebook




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Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jon Land to celebrate the release of his 8th Caitlin Strong thriller, Strong Cold Dead. There will be 5 winners of one (1) autographed copy of Strong Cold Dead by Jon Land. This giveaway is limited to US & Canadian residents only. The giveaway begins on September 28th and runs through November 3rd, 2016.

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2015 Book 338: STRONG LIGHT OF DAY by Jon Land

Strong Light of Day (Caitlin Strong #7) by Jon Land 
ISBN: 9780765335128 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781466821071 (ebook)
ASIN: B00V34YLP2 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 13, 2015 
Publisher: Forge Books


Texas ranger Caitlin Strong is involved in an international plot rooted in secrets from the Cold War in this seventh installment of the New York Times bestselling series

Afghanistan, 2003: During a mountain raid, a team of Navy SEALs discovers plans for a new and ingenious attack on the United States.

The Present: Fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong is summoned when thirty high school kids from a Houston prep school vanish during a field trip, including the son of her lover, Cort Wesley Masters. As if that wasn’t enough, Caitlin also has to deal with a crazed rancher whose entire herd of cattle has been picked clean to the bone.

The link between these two inexplicable events dates back to the contents of that Afghan cave raided by the SEALs, and a plot by forces within Russia to a win a war they never stopped fighting. At the center of that plot are billionaire Calum Dane and his multinational conglomerate, currently embroiled in controversy over a genetically engineered pesticide that has the potential to eradicate hunger across the world. Dane doesn’t know that this pesticide has spawned a new and deadly enemy capable of destroying the very fabric of American life.

Caitlin’s race to save the country weaves through the present and the past, confronting her with the most powerful and dangerous foes she’s ever faced. The Cold War hasn’t just heated up; it’s boiling over under the spill of a strong light only Caitlin can shut off before it’s too late. 


Caitlin Strong is no stranger to adversity; just ask any of the criminals she’s arrested. Now she just may be facing one of the strangest adversaries ever in her attempt to protect her family, state, and country in Strong Light of Day by Jon Land.

Caitlin Strong lives up to her name and her family heritage as a kick-ass Texas Ranger. She’s unapologetic about her methods and isn’t hesitant to use deadly force when necessary, albeit as a last resource. Her boss, Captain D.W. Tepper, refers to her fondly as Hurricane. Caitlin’s morning starts out with a strange case of a cattle rancher in a stand-off with local law enforcement about cattle grazing rights. That’s quickly followed up with a phone call stating that an entire class of high school students have vanished from a local nature preserve, including the son of her lover. Fortunately, her lover’s son is found with one other student lost in the forest after she arrives at the preserve. Unfortunately, the rest of the class is still missing. Then things go crazy with another cattle rancher holding his family hostage over his ravaged herd. The weird just keeps coming when her lover, Cort Masters, is pulled in to work with a former officer at Homeland Security and has a run-in with some Russian, presumably, mob guys. The guys Cort had his run-in with then turn up dead in a local office with a map of Texas that highlights the nature preserve and both cattle ranches. Caitlin knows that the abduction and the ravaged cattle are connected, but can she put the pieces together before it’s too late?

Strong Light of Day is the seventh book in the Caitlin Strong series by Jon Land and it packs a wallop. Mr. Land takes scenarios that might seem extremely farfetched in anyone else’s hands seem plausible and probable (sorry, I can’t tell you any more than that…read the book!). There are plenty of good guys, bad guys, and not-so-good-or-bad guys. Each section within the book is prefaced with quotes on history about the Texas Rangers and that just added a little something extra to my overall enjoyment. I found Strong Light of Day to be a fast-paced, easy and very enjoyable read. I enjoyed the characters (yes, even the bad guys), the interwoven storylines (there are quite a few), and the action. The current action ties in nicely with the action from 1983 between Caitlin and Cort’s fathers, as well as the early 2000s find by the Navy SEALs in a cave in Afghanistan. Parts of the story also take place in Russia, New York, and Kansas (there’s a lot going on, but it is all tied together at the end). Strong Light of Day provides suspense, thrills, chills, terrorism, agroterrorism, murder, and more (yes, there’s violence but it isn’t gratuitous violence nor is it gory). One of the many things I appreciate about Mr. Land’s series is that it is possible to read a book out of sequence and still understand what is going on. I strongly recommend Strong of Light of Day for readers that appreciate well-crafted suspense-thrillers. I enjoyed Strong Light of Day so much, I plan to binge-read the entire series within the next few months (yes, it was that good).

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the author via Partners In Crime Tours. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Giveaway:

Enter to win 1 copy of Strong Light of Day (multiple winners). This giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jon Land. The giveaway begins on October 12th, 2015 and runs through November 14th, 2015. For US residents only.


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Book Showcase: BLACK SCORPION: THE TYRANT REBORN by Jon Land

Black Scorpion: The Tyrant Reborn by Jon Land
ISBN: 9780765337238 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781466832169 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00NKB9RGO (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication date: April 7, 2015


The next adventure of The Seven Sins’ Michael “The Tyrant” Tiranno, Jon Land’s Black Scorpion is a pulse pounding action-thriller as he takes on a worldwide human trafficking cabal.

Five years have passed since Michael Tiranno saved the city of Las Vegas from a terrorist attack. And now a new enemy has surfaced in Eastern Europe in the form of an all-powerful organization called Black Scorpion. Once a victim of human trafficking himself, the shadowy group’s crazed leader, Vladimir Dracu, has become the mastermind behind the scourge’s infestation on a global scale. And now he’s set his sights on Michael Tiranno for reasons birthed in a painful secret past that have scarred both men.

Already facing a myriad of problems, Michael once more must rise to the challenge of confronting an all-powerful enemy who is exploiting and ravaging innocents all across the globe and has set nothing less than all of America as its new victim. Black Scorpion has also taken the woman Michael loves hostage: Scarlett Swan, a beautiful archaeologist who was following the dangerous trail of the origins of the ancient relic that both defines and empowers Michael, a discovery that could change history and the perception of mankind’s very origins.



Read an excerpt:

Part One 

BEFORE 

ONE 

Northern Israel, 950 BC 


“They come, oh great King.” 

Solomon, weary and weak from going so long without rest, leaned heavily on the shoulder of his son as he emerged from inside his goat-hair tent. Already he and his private guard had fought off two ambushes. Bandits appeared to be to blame, but Solomon suspected otherwise given their weaponry, skill, and the fact that they hadn’t fled when confronted. 

Now his heart pounded with anticipation, but also with fear, in the night’s heat. He was so close now, so close to fulfilling the destiny shaped by his father, the great King David. And that reality filled him with the awesome scope of the responsibility before him, along with the price of failure. 

He could not fail. The fate of his kingdom was at stake.

Solomon cast his gaze down the road to see a single wagon kicking up a dust cloud in its wake. Traveling under cover of darkness greatly lessened the threat of a raid by bandits and, in any event, at first sight the wagon seemed to be carrying nothing more than a farmer’s crops being taken to the open market in Jerusalem. 

Solomon peeled back his beggar’s hood to reveal long locks of shiny brown hair and finely etched features that looked chiseled onto his face. He’d just nodded off, dreaming of Jerusalem, imagining the lanterns lighting the city twinkling in the night, when the captain of his private guard alerted him to the wagon’s coming. 

Solomon eased his hand from the shoulder of his fifteen-year-old son Rehoboam as the wagon drew closer, so the boy wouldn’t feel him stiffen. “Keep a keen eye, my son, for our enemies are everywhere.” 

“Father?” the boy said, sliding a hand to the knife Solomon had presented him on the occasion of his bar mitzvah. He was small for his age and a bit frail. But, as heir to the kingdom of Israel, he needed to be part of such a vital mission, no matter how perilous. 

“They would seek to destroy this symbol of our people and the foundation of our future. With our temple complete, we have safe refuge for it at last.” 

The Temple of Solomon had taken nearly eight years to build, requiring men and materials the likes of which had never been seen before in the known world. A staggering two hundred thousand workers had ultimately played a part in its construction, milled from vast quantities of local stone and imported cedar wood. It was a sprawling, palatial structure, perhaps the greatest ever erected— and with good reason, since it would be housing the vast stores of priceless treasures amassed by the Jewish people through time. What Solomon had kept secret from all but his most trusted cadre was the construction of a special chamber within the temple called Kodesh Hakodashim, or Holy of Holies. This would house the ark of the covenant, containing the remains of the stone tablets that held the actual Ten Commandments, along with the contents carried in the rear of the simple farmer’s wagon approaching now. 

It drew close enough to reveal the snorting of the horses and pounding of their hooves atop the roadbed that was dry and cracking from the long drought Solomon took for God’s impatience. And, as if to reinforce that belief, he felt the first trickle of raindrops and took this as a good omen, until thunder rumbled in the distance and it became something much different. 

A warning. 




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Book Showcase: STRONG DARKNESS by Jon Land


Strong Darkness


by Jon Land


on Tour at Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours October 1-31, 2014



 



Book Details:



Genre: Thriller


Published by: Forge 


Publication Date: Sept 30, 2014 


Number of Pages: 368 


ISBN: 978-0765335111 


Purchase Links:    


Synopsis:



1883: Texas Ranger William Ray Strong teams up with Judge Roy Bean to track down the Old West’s first serial killer who’s stitching a trail of death along the railroad lines slicing their way through Texas.

The Present: Fifth Generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself pursuing another serial killer whose methods are eerily similar to the one pursued by her great-grandfather almost a century-and-a-half before. But that’s just the beginning of the problems confronting Caitlin in her biggest and most dangerous adventure yet, starting off when the son of her reformed outlaw boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters is nearly beaten to death while at college.

The trail of that attack at Brown University leads all the way back to Texas and a Chinese high-tech company recently awarded the contract to build the nation’s Fifth Generation wireless network. Li Zhen, a rare self-made man in China and the company’s founder, counts that as the greatest achievement of his career. But it’s an achievement that hides the true motivations behind a rise fueled by events dating back to the time of Caitlin’s great-grandfather. Because the same era that spawned a serial killer who has impossibly resurfaced today also hides the secrets behind Li’s thirst for nothing less than China’s total domination of the United States.

His fiendishly clever plan is backed by all-powerful elements of the Chinese underworld that will stop at nothing to insure its success. Up against an army at Li’s disposal, Caitlin and Cort Wesley blaze a violent trail across country and continent in search of secrets hidden in the past, but it’s a secret from the present that holds the means to stop their adversary’s plot in its tracks, even as a climactic battle dawns with nothing less than the fate of the U.S. at stake. Because there’s a darkness coming, and only Caitlin Strong can find the light before it’s too late.



Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

San Antonio, Texas

“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

Caitlin Strong listened to the chant repeated over and over again by the Beacon of Light Church members who’d decided to picket a young soldier’s funeral here in San Antonio in pointless protest. The words were harder to make out across the street beyond the thousand-foot buffer the protestors were required to keep, but clear enough to disturb the parents of an army hero who just wanted to bury their son in peace.

“What are you going to do about this, Ranger?” Bud Chauncey, the young man’s father, asked her.

“I’ve requested that they vacate the premises, sir,” Caitlin told the man. “My orders are to do no more than that as long as they keep their distance. It’s the law.”

Chauncey, who owned several car dealerships in the area, turned toward the Beacon of Light Church members gathered on a patch of fresh land up a slight rise across the road Mission Burial Park had purchased in order to expand. His eyes looked bloodshot and weary, his face held in an angry glare that captured the frustration over being able to do no more about their presence here than he could for the son he was about to lay to rest. He stretched a hand through stringy gray hair to smooth it back down, but the breeze quickly blew it out of place again. Chauncey always looked so strong, vital and happy on his television commercials, leaving Caitlin to wonder if this was even the same man. His neck was thin and marred by discolored patches of skin that looked to have come from radiation treatments. His hands were thin and knobby and she noticed them trembling once he moved them from his pockets. She caught a glimpse of tobacco stains on the tips of his fingers and nails and thought of those radiation treatments again.

“Thousand feet away?” Chauncey questioned.

“Legislature passed a law restricting protests to that distance to funerals held in the state.”

Chauncey gazed back at the mourners gathered by his son’s gravesite waiting for the service to begin. He and Caitlin stood off to the side of the building funeral cortege at Mission Burial Park, the cemetery located on the San Antonio River where her father and grandfather were buried in clear view of the historic Espada Mission.

“Why don’t you explain that to my boy, Ranger?”

It sounded more like a plea than a question, a grieving father looking for a way to reconcile his son’s death in the face of picketing strangers paying him the ultimate disrespect. Blaming gays and their lifestyle for the landmine that had taken a young man’s life when he threw himself on two other soldiers to save them.

“The world might be full of shit,” Chauncey resumed with his gaze fixed across the road, electricity seeming to radiate out of his pores with the sweat to the point where Caitlin figured she’d get a shock if she stretched a hand out to comfort him. “But that doesn’t mean we ever get used to stepping in it.”

“I’ll be right back, sir,” she told Bud Chauncey and headed toward the street.



CHAPTER 2

San Antonio, Texas

It seemed like too nice a day to bury somebody as gifted as Bud Chauncey’s son Junior. An All-District athlete in three sports, Homecoming King and senior class president who’d joined the Army’s ROTC program. He went to Afghanistan already a hero and came back in a box after his platoon was hit by a Taliban ambush while on patrol. It was bad enough when good boys died for no good reason Caitlin could see. It was even worse when it happened while a war was winding down and most back home had stopped paying attention.

Caitlin was thinking of Dylan Torres, the eighteen-year-old son of the man she considered, well, her boy friend, as she walked toward the road and grassy field across it in the process of being dug out to make room for Mission Burial Park’s expansion. Bud Chauncey’s son Junior had been barely a year older when he died and she couldn’t help picturing Dylan patrolling a desert wasteland with M-16 held in the ready position before him. Still a boy, no matter how much he’d been through or how many monsters with whom he’d come into contact. Currently in Providence, Rhode Island where he was in the midst of his freshman football season for Brown University.

Caitlin had read that Junior Chauncey had been accepted for admission at the University of Texas at Austin where he hoped to do the same. Dylan had a junior varsity game next weekend, if she remembered correctly. Junior would never don helmet and pads again.

That thought pushed a spring into her step as she strode across the road now crammed with cars, both parked along the side and inching along in search of a space. The funeral was being delayed to account for that, giving Bud Chauncey more time to suffer and the Beacon of Light Church more time to make their presence known. Alerted to their coming, television crews from five local stations and at least two national ones she could see had arrived first, their cameras covering all that was transpiring on both sides of the road.

Crossing the street, Caitlin thought she felt a blast of heat flushed by a furnace slam into her. It seemed to radiate off the protesters turning the air hot and prickly as they continued to chant. The sky was cloudless, the heat building in the fall day under a sun more like summer’s from the burn Caitlin felt on her cheeks.

Caitlin recognized the leader, William Bryant Tripp, from his wet-down hair, skin flushed red and handlebar mustache, and angled herself straight for him across the edge of the field that gave way to a drainage trench the width of a massive John Deere wheel loader’s shovel. The trench created a natural barricade between the Beacon of Light Church members and what might as well have been the rest of the world, while the big Deere sat idle between towering mounds of earth set further back in the field.

“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

“Mr. Tripp,” she called to the leader over the chants. He’d stepped out of the procession at her approach, smirking and twirling the ends of his mustache.

“It’s Reverend Tripp,” he reminded.

Caitlin nodded, trying to look respectful. “There’s people grieving a tragic death across the way, Reverend, and I’d ask you again as a man and a Christian to vacate the premises so they might do so in peace. You’ve made your point already and I believe you should leave things at that.”

The smirk remained. “Peace is what this church is all about, Ranger, a peace that can only be achieved if those who debauch and deface the values of good honest people like us repent and are called out for their sins.”

“Gays had nothing to do with putting that brave boy in a coffin, sir. That was the work of a bunch of cowardly religious fanatics like the ones serving you here today.”

The smirk slipped from Tripp’s expression, replaced by a look that brushed Caitlin off and sized her up at the same time. “We’re breaking no laws here. So I’m going to ask you to leave us in peace.”

Caitlin felt her muscles tightening, her mouth going dry. “You have every right to be here and I’m here to protect your rights to peaceful assembly as well as the rights of the Chauncey family to bury their son without a sideshow. The problem is that presents a contradiction it’s my duty to resolve. And the best way to do that is to ask you and your people to simply leave in a timely fashion.”

Tripp shifted his shoulders. He seemed to relish the threat Caitlin’s words presented. “And if we choose not to?”

“You’ve made your point for the cameras already, sir. There’s nothing more for you to prove. So do the holy thing by packing up your pickets and heading on.” Caitlin gazed toward the protestors thrusting their signs into the air in perfect rhythm with their chanting. “Use the time to paint over those signs, so you’re ready to terrorize the next family that loses a son in battle, Mr. Tripp.”

Tripp measured her words, running his tongue around the inside of his mouth. It made a sound like crushing a grape underfoot. Caitlin could feel the sun’s heat between them now, serving as an invisible barrier neither wanted to breach.

“It’s Reverend Tripp,” he reminded again.

“I believe that title needs to be earned,” Caitlin told him, feeling her words start to race ahead of her thoughts. 

Tripp stiffened. “This church has been serving Him and His word since the very founding of this great nation, Ranger. Even here in the great state of Texas itself.”

“Those other military funerals you’ve been picketing from Lubbock to Amarillo don’t count toward that, sir.”

“I was speaking of our missionary work back in the times of the frontier; the railroads and the oil booms. How this church tried to convert the Chinese heathen hordes to Christianity.”

“Heathen hordes?”

“It was a fool’s errand,” Tripp said, bitterness turning his expression even more hateful. “The Chinese made for an unholy, hateful people not deserving of our Lord’s good graces.”

“But you believe you are, thanks to hurting those good folks across the way, is that right? Problem is you’re not serving God, sir, you’re serving yourself. And I’m giving you a chance to square things the easy way instead of the hard.”

Tripp sneered at her. “Such threats didn’t work in Lubbock or Amarillo and they won’t work here either.”

“I wasn’t the one who made them in those cities, Mr. Tripp. You’d be well advised to listen this time.”

“And what if I don’t?”

“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

The chanting had picked up in cadence, seeming to reach a crescendo as the funeral goers squeezed themselves around Junior Chauncey’s gravesite across the road so the ceremony could begin. Caitlin watched the members of the Beacon of Light Church thrusting their picket signs into the air as if they were trying to make rain, the image of their feet teetering on the edge of recently dug drainage trench holding in her mind.

“I guess I’ll have to think of something,” she told Tripp and started away.



CHAPTER 3

San Antonio, Texas

Caitlin looped around the perimeter of the protesters, her presence likely forgotten by the time she reached the John Deere wheel loader parked between matching piles of excavated earth. She recognized it as a 644K hybrid model boasting twenty tons of power that could probably level a skyscraper. Caitlin had learned to drive earlier, more brutish versions while helping to rebuild a Mexican family’s home after they’d been burned out by drunken kids for a pot deal gone wrong. Trouble was the drug dealer who’d screwed the kids actually lived across the street. Caitlin’s father had arrested the boys two days later. Considering them dangerous criminals, Jim Strong made them strip to their underwear and left them to roast in the sun while he waited for back-up to assist him in a cavity search. Jim had organized the rebuilding effort, financed ultimately by the restitution paid by the accused boys’ parents to keep them out of jail. Caitlin’s father had brokered that deal as well.

The hybrid engine of the 644K sounded a hundred times quieter than the roar coughed by the older version and handled as easy as a subcompact, when Caitlin started it forward.

“Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

She couldn’t hear the chanting anymore, imagining it in her mind with each thrust of the picket signs into the air. It was loud enough to keep the protestors from detecting her approach, even when she lowered the shovel into position and let its teeth dig maybe a foot down into the ground.

Caitlin plowed the growing pile of dirt forward as if it were snow after a rare Texas blizzard. The back row of the protesters turned just as the wall of gathered earth crested over the shovel. Caitlin imagined the panic widen their eyes, heard screams and shouts as they tried desperately to warn the others what was coming.

Too late.

The massive power of the John Deere pushed the earthen wall straight into the center of the pack fronted by William Bryant Tripp himself, driving the mass forward without even a sputter. The last thing Caitlin glimpsed were picket signs closer to the front stubbornly clinging to the air before those holding them were gobbled up and shoved forward.

Down into the drainage trench.

Caitlin pictured Reverend Tripp toppling in first, imagined the trench as a mass grave or, better yet, the week’s deposit zone in the local landfill. Because that’s where the members of the Beacon of Light Church belonged in her mind, dumped in along with the other stench-riddled trash.

Some of the protesters managed to peel off to the side to escape the John Deere’s force and wrath, and Caitlin didn’t brake the big machine until the earthen wall she was dragging stopped on the edge of the trench. Portions of it sifted downward, forestalling the efforts of Tripp and his minions to climb out. So she gave the Deere just a little more gas to trap them a bit longer.

Caitlin cut off the engine at that point. Her gaze drifted across the street to the funeral ceremony for Junior Chauncey where to a man and woman everyone had turned around to face the other side of the road. They saw the members of the Beacon of Light Church visible only as hands desperately clawing for purchase to pull themselves from the trench into which Caitlin had forced them. She hopped down out of the cab and walked around the wall of dirt and grass the John Deere had helped her lay.

Then, to a man and woman led by Bud Chauncey himself, the funeral goers started to clap their hands, applauding her. It got louder and louder, reaching a crescendo just as the television cameras began rotating feverishly between both sides of the road and reporters rushed toward Caitlin with microphones in hand.

She leaped across the trench, brushing the microphones and cameras aside, the sun hot against her flesh.

“You’re going to pay for this, Caitlin Strong!” she heard Tripp scream at her, as he finally managed to hoist himself from the ditch. “The Lord does not forget!”

“Neither do I, sir,” Caitlin said calmly, regarding the dirt clinging to him no amount of shaking or brushing could remove. It turned his ash gray hair a dark brown, making him look as if he was wearing a vegetable garden atop his head. “And you’d be wise to remember that.”



Author Bio:

Hailed as “the greatest thriller writer alive today” by Bookviews and called “a creative genius” by Romantic Times, Jon Land is the author of 36 books, twenty-one of which have been national bestsellers, Jon is published in over fifty countries and six different languages, including German and Japanese. There are currently almost 7 million copies of his books in print. RT Book Reviews honored him with a special achievement award for being a Pioneer in Genre Fiction.

Jon’s latest series features female Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong who debuted in STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE (May ’09, Forge Books). The Associated Press wrote “The book is a page-turner, the pace blistering, the characters well-drawn and the action hot. Caitlin Strong is a female version of John McClane from Die Hard.” That was followed by STRONG JUSTICE (June ’10, Forge) which Publisher’s Weekly lauded with a starred review calling it, “Intense and skillfully plotted.” The San Jose Mercury News added that, “I’ve always wondered why there isn’t an estrogen driven, sometimes skirt wearing female competitor to James Bond, Jack Reacher, Mike Hammer, Spenser … Well ladies and gentlemen, now there is and her name is Caitlin Strong.” STRONG JUSTICE was named a Top Thriller of the Year by Library Journal and was named runner-up for Best Novel of the Year by the New England Book Festival. The third Caitlin Strong novel, STRONG AT THE BREAK (June ’11, Forge) was called “the best book I’ve read this year” by the San Jose Mercury News. “A terrific plot, vivid characters, suspense, a fast pace, all the ingredients of a great thriller,” adds Strand Magazine which included the book on their Best Books of the Year list as did Library Journal which named it, again, as a Top Thriller of Year. The next book in the series, STRONG VENGEANCE (July ’12, Forge) garnered the highest praise in series so far, including from the Huffington Post which proclaimed it, “a rare combination of meticulous research and good old-fashioned shoot-em-up action.” STRONG RAIN FALLING (August ’13, Forge) Caitlin’s latest adventure, won the 2013 USA Best Books Award and 2014 International Book Award in the Mystery/Suspense category. STRONG DARKNESS, the next in the series, was published in September of 2014.

Meanwhile, BETRAYAL (January ’12, Forge), Jon’s first nonfiction effort that reached as high as #5 on the Boston Globe bestseller list, was optioned by Fox as a vehicle for Denis Leary, and named Best True Crime Book of the Year by Suspense Magazine as well as winning the 2013 International Book Award for Best True Crime. Most recently, Jon has resurrected his longtime series hero Blaine McCracken in THE TENTH CIRCLE (December ’13, Open Road Media) and PANDORA’S TEMPLE (November ’12, Open Road Media) which was nominated for a 2013 Thriller Award in the Best E-Book Original category and won the 2013 International Book Award for Best Adventure Thriller.

No stranger to the world of the film, Jon’s first film, a teen caper-comedy called DIRTY DEEDS, was released theatrically in the summer of 2005 and in DVD in January of 2006. Among numerous others, his current film projects include CHALK (Handpicked Films and Millennium) and STRANDED (Milk & Media Productions).

Jon graduated Brown University in 1979 Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude. He continues his association with Brown as alumni advisor to the Greek System, and vice-president of the Brown Football Association. He bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel and research, as well as a twenty-year career in the martial arts. He is an associate member of the United States Special Forces, has volunteered frequently in schools to help young people learn to enjoy the process of writing and chairs the Marketing Committee of International Thriller Writers. He lives in Providence, RI and can be found on the web at:




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Book 339: STRONG DARKNESS Review

Strong Darkness (Caitlin Strong #6) by Jon Land
ISBN: 9780765335111 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781466821064 (ebook)
ASIN: B00ILXYTW8 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Forge Books


Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong returns in her most thrilling adventure yet

1883: Texas Ranger William Ray Strong teams up with Judge Roy Bean to track down the Old West’s first serial killer, who’s stitching a trail of death along the railroad lines slicing their way through Texas.

The Present: Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself pursuing another serial killer whose methods are eerily similar to the one pursued by her great-grandfather almost a century-and-a-half before.

But that’s just the beginning of her problems. The son of her boyfriend is nearly beaten to death at Brown University. The investigation leads back to Texas and to the Chinese high-tech company awarded the contract to build the US’s 5G network. Li Zhen, the company’s founder, counts that as the greatest achievement of his career, but it hides his true motivations—nothing less than China’s total domination of the United States.

His plan is backed by elements of the Chinese underworld. Up against an army at Li’s disposal, Caitlin blazes a violent trail across country and continent in search of secrets hidden in the past, but it’s a secret from the present that holds the key. Darkness is coming, and only Caitlin Strong can find the light before it’s too late.



Strong men are usually referred to as a take-charge kind-of-guy, macho (in a good way), or a man’s man. Strong women are not viewed so kindly and are generally called arrogant, demanding, bitches, or worse. Caitlin Strong doesn’t care about the terminology used; she is a strong-willed, take-no-prisoners type of person that knows right from wrong, a formidable law officer, and she doesn’t apologize for anything she does. Caitlin knows that life may not be all black-and-white, but she has a strong sense of justice and a duty to right any perceived wrongs. This quickly becomes evident when she uses a John Deere front loader to nudge a group of protesters at a funeral into a trench. 

Strong Darkness is the sixth book in the Caitlin Strong series but the first one that I’ve read. Even though this was a new-to-me series, I was able to follow the characters and the plot without any difficulty. Mr. Land has this amazing ability to weave historical elements with contemporary themes into a highly plausible and enjoyable read. I wasn’t quite sure how the storyline from 1883 with Judge Roy Bean and Caitlin’s great-grandfather was going to play out, but it does play an integral role in the story. Past and present serial killers targeting the same types of women sounded a bit far-fetched, but again it works. It may sound trite to say that Strong Darkness was an engrossing read, but it captured my attention from the first page to the very last. I liked Caitlin Strong and admired her sense of justice and willingness to fight for what is right. Caitlin isn’t perfect and it is her flaws, such as her quick temper, that made her into such a likeable, if not admirable, character to me. I enjoyed her interactions with her significant other, Cort Wesley Masters, her friend and guardian angel, Colonel Guillermo Paz, and even her boss, Captain Tepper.

Strong Darkness is more than just a thriller with good guys versus bad guys; it is a contemporary thriller with a historical component and a bad guy that’s downright evil. Did I enjoy reading Strong Darkness? Yes! I loved the characters (good and bad), the action, and the storylines. How can you not like a story that includes a Chinese terrorist threat using technology, Judge Roy Bean, a college student in New England, a past and present serial killer in Texas, did I mention Judge Roy Bean, and a kick-ass heroine? Do the good guys win? If so, at what cost? Well I could tell you, but I’ll just say this . . . read the book! Don’t like reading books from a series? Don’t worry, you can pick up this book and not feel you’re missing too much from previous books in the series. Of course you should probably read all of the books in the series just to flesh out all of the background information. I can’t wait to read all six books back-to-back.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Partners in Crime Tours. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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Book Showcase: THE TENTH CIRCLE by Jon Land





   

Synopsis:
1590: An entire colony of British settlers vanishes from their settlement on Roanoke Island, seemingly into thin air.

1872: The freighter Marie Celeste is found drifting at sea off Gibraltar, its entire crew and passengers gone missing without a trace.

But what if there’s a connection between two of the greatest historical mysteries ever? And what if the roots of that connection lie in a crazed plot to destroy the United States as we know it today?

Those are the questions confronting Blaine McCracken as he takes up the trail of small time preacher Jeremiah Rule whose hateful rhetoric has done big time damage by inflaming an entire people half a world away, resulting in a series of devastating terrorist attacks stateside. Rule, though, isn’t acting alone. A shadowy cabal is pulling his strings, unaware they are creating a monster soon to spin free of their control.

McCracken has just returned from pulling off the impossible in Iran, ridding the world of one terrible threat only to return home to face another. Isolated in a way he’s never been before and now hunted himself, he’ll have to rely on skills and allies both old and new to get to the heart of a plan aimed at unleashing no less than the Tenth Circle of Hell. This as he contends with a failed congressman intent on changing the country to fit his own vision and an Iranian assassin bent on revenge.

Blaine’s desperate path across country and continent takes him into the past where the answers he needs lie among the missing Roanoke colonists and the contents of the Marie Celeste’s cargo holds. Those secrets alone hold the means to stop the Tenth Circle from closing. And as the bodies tumble in his wake, as the clock ticks down to an unthinkable maelstrom, McCracken and Johnny Wareagle fight to save the United States from a war the country didn’t even know it was fighting, but might well lose.

Book Details:
Genre: Thriller
Published by: Open Road Integrated Media
Publication Date: December 24, 2013
Number of Pages: 420
ISBN: 978-1480414792
Purchase Links:    



Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

The Negev Desert, Israel; the present

“We have incoming, General!  Anti-missile batteries are responding!”

General Yitzak Berman focused his gaze on the desperate scenario unfolding in amazingly realistic animation on the huge screen before him. Eight missiles fired from Iran sped toward all major population centers of Israel in a perfect geometric pattern, about to give the nation’s Arrow anti-missile system its greatest test yet.  

“Sir,” reported the head of the analysts squeezed into the underground bunker from which Israel maintained command and control, “initial specs indicate the size, weight and sourcing of the missiles . . .”

“Proceed,” the general said when the analyst stopped to swallow hard.

“They’re nuclear, sir, in the fifty kiloton range.”

“Targets?”

Another young man picked up from there. “Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Mediterranean coast, the Sinai, our primary airfields . . .” He looked back toward Sherman. “And here, sir.”

“Anti-missile batteries are launching!” a new voice blared through the strangely dim lighting that seemed to flutter as the missiles drew closer.

And Sherman watched the animated simulation of dozens and dozens of Israeli Arrow rockets, along with larger American Patriots, shooting upward in line with the incoming missiles. Four hits were scored in the maelstrom of animated smoke bursts, more rockets launched to chase down the remaining four nukes that had survived the first salvo.

“We have two more confirmed downed!” yet another young voice rang out.

But the bunker fell silent as the sophisticated animation continued to follow two surviving Iranian missiles as they streaked toward Tel Aviv and Haifa.

“Schmai Israel, hallileh hoseh,” one of the young voices began, reciting the prayer softly as the missiles’ arc turned downward, on a direct course to their targets with nothing left to stop their flight.

“Order our fighters holding at their failsafe positions to launch their attacks,” instructed Berman. “Destroy Iran.”

He’d barely finished when two flashes burst out from the animated screen, bright enough to force several squeezed into the bunker to shield their eyes. As those flashes faded amid the stunned silence and odor of stale perspiration hanging in the air, the bunker’s regular lighting snapped back on.

“This concludes the simulation,” a mechanical voice droned. “Repeat, this concludes the simulation.”

With that, a bevy of Israeli officials, both civilian and military, emerged from the rear-most corner of the bunker, all wearing dour expressions.

Israel’s female defense minister stepped forward ahead of the others. “Your point is made, General,” she said to Berman. “Not that we needed any further convincing.”

“I’m glad we all agree that the Iranian nuclear threat can no longer be tolerated,” Berman, the highest-ranking member of the Israeli military left alive who’d fought in the Six-Day War, told them. “We’ve been over all this before. The difference is we’re now certain our defenses cannot withstand an Iranian attack, leaving us with casualty estimates of up to a million dead and two million wounded, many of them gravely. Fifty simulations, all with results similar to the ones you have just witnessed.” He hesitated, eyes hardened through two generations of war boring into the defense minister’s. “I want your formal authorization.”

“For what?”

“To destroy the Iranian nuclear complex at Natanz.”

Israel’s defense minister started to smile, then simply shook her head. “We’ve been over this before, a hundred times. Our army can’t do it, our air force can’t do it, our commandos can’t do it, and the Americans are saying the very same thing from their end. You want my authorization to do the impossible? You’ve got it. Just don’t expect any backup, extraction, or political cover.”

Yitzak Berman returned his gaze to the wall-sized screen where animated versions of Tel Aviv and Haifa had turned dark. “The man I have in mind won’t need of any of that.”

“Did you say man?”


CHAPTER 2

Natanz, Iran

“We are descending through a million tons of solid rock,” the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Minister of Energy, Ali Akbar Hosseini, told the filmmaker squeezed in the elevator by both his equipment and the trio of Revolutionary Guardsmen. “A technological achievement in its own right. You understand the great task you’ve been entrusted to perform.”

“Just as you must understand I’m the best at my job, just like your scientists are at theirs,” said the bearded, award winning filmmaker Hosseini knew as Najjar. Najjar’s appearance was exactly as depicted in photographs, save for the scar through his left eyebrow the minister did not recall. He was dressed casually in dark cargo pants and long-sleeve cotton shirt rolled up at the sleeves, bulky clothing that hid what was clearly a V-shaped, well-muscled frame beneath. “I was told I’d be given total access to the facility.”

“And you will, at least those parts deemed appropriate by me.”

“That wasn’t part of the deal. It never is with my work.”

“This is a different kind of opportunity.”

The elevator started to slow.

“Then you should have gotten a filmmaker more adept at wedding videos,” Najjar snapped. “Perhaps we’ve both made a mistake.”

“You are about to see what few men ever have,” Hosseini continued, wearing a fashionable suit instead of a military uniform. “And it will be your blessed privilege to chronicle it for the world to see when the time is right. You call that a mistake?”

“You chose me because I’m the best. I ask only that you treat me that way.”

“I could have retained a simple videographer for this assignment,” Hosseini said, his shoulders stiffening. “I chose you because I wanted something that would stand the test of history. This will be my legacy, my contribution to our glorious Republic, and I want it to be celebrated, not just appreciated, a century from now. I want anyone who watches to see not just a place, but a point in history that changed the world forever. An awesome responsibility I’m entrusting you with.”

“I look forward to exceeding your expectations.”

Hosseini’s eyes fell on the bulky equipment lying at the filmmaker’s feet; a camera, portable lights, and a quartet of shoebox-sized rechargeable batteries to supply power. “Others I’ve worked with have turned to much smaller cameras for video, even ones that look like they only take pictures.”

“And how did their work turn out?” asked the filmmaker, his tone still biting.

“Acceptable, but not impressive. This assignment clearly required something more, a case I had to make to the Council’s finance board to justify your fee.”

“If you aren’t satisfied with what I produce for you, you owe nothing. I’ll return my fee to the Council personally.”

“Both of us know that will not be necessary. Both of us know you will produce something that will stand the test of time through the ages and serve both of us well,” Hosseini said to the man he’d personally selected for the job.  

“I value your regard and the confidence you have in me,” Najjar said more humbly in Farsi.

Then he slung the camera over his shoulder and scooped up the batteries and portable lights in his grasp, beckoning the minister to exit ahead of him.

“After you,” said Blaine McCracken.


CHAPTER 3

Washington, DC; two months earlier

“You’re kidding, right?” Blaine McCracken said after the Israeli he knew only as “David” finished.

“You come highly recommended, Mr. McCracken. Back home you’re considered a legend.”

“Another word for dinosaur.”

“But far from extinct. And my American friends tell me you’re the only one they believe can get this done.”

“Meaning I’d have to succeed where two governments have failed.”

David shrugged, the gesture further exaggerating the size of his neck that seemed a stubby extension of his shoulders and trapezious muscles. He wasn’t a tall man but unnaturally broad through the upper body. McCracken couldn’t make out his eyes well in the darkness, but imagined them to be furtive and noncommittal.

They’d met at the Observation Deck of the Washington Monument. Closed to the public for repairs indefinitely, but still accessible by workmen, though not at night, always McCracken’s favorite time to view Washington. He liked imagining what was going on in offices where lights still burned, plans were being hatched and fates determined. There was so much about the city he hated but plenty from which he couldn’t detach himself. In the vast majority of those offices, officials were trying to do good; at least, they believed they were.  

McCracken found himself wondering which of those offices David had come here from; it would be State or Defense in the old days, across the river in Langley just as often. These days it was Homeland Security, the catch-all and watch word that got people nodding in silence, Homeland’s offices spread out all over the city proper and thus responsible for an untold number of the lights that still burned.

A few work lamps provided the only illumination inside the gutted Observation Deck, riddled with a musty basement-like smell of old, stale concrete and wood rot mixed with fresh lumber and sawdust which covered the exposed floor like a floating rug. David had sneezed a few times upon first entering, passing it off as allergies.

“It’s not that we’ve failed,” David told him, “it’s that all the plans we’ve considered have been rejected out of hand. We’ve come to you for something non-traditional that no one expects.”

“You’ve got a lot of faith in me.”

“If anyone can do it, it’s you. Otherwise, we will have no choice but to try something that is doomed to fail and perhaps even make things worse. But our hands are tied. With Iran so close to getting their bomb, the choice is gone.”

“Your name’s not really David, is it?” McCracken asked the Israeli.

“Why would you think that?”

“Because the last few times I’ve worked with your country, my contacts were named David too. A reference to David and Goliath maybe?”

A flicker of a smile crossed the Israeli’s lips. “I’m told you had a plan.”

“No, what I’ve got is an idea. It’s risky, dangerous, and I haven’t even broached it to the powers at be here.”

“Because you don’t think they’d be interested?”

“Because they haven’t asked.” McCracken looked out through the window at the twinkling office lights again, already fewer of them than just a few minutes before, imagining the kind of things being discussed after office hours had concluded. “The only time my phone rings these days is when the SEALS or Delta have already passed on the mission, with good reason this time.”

“We’re asking,” said David. “You, not them. And we’ll provide you with the right resources, any resources you require.”

McCracken gave David a longer look, the younger man’s thick nest of curly hair making him seem vulnerable and innocent at the same time when neither was true. “Tell me you’re ready to fight fire with fire. Tell me that’s what you meant about making the right resources available.”

David seemed to grasp his meaning immediately. “And if we are?”

Blaine smiled.


CHAPTER 4

Natanz, Iran; the present

McCracken lugged the equipment from the elevator, careful to show strain and exertion on his features to avoid raising any suspicions in Hosseini. The hall before them was brightly lit, as clean and sterile as a hospital’s. The air smelled of nothing; not antiseptic, not solvent, not fresh tile. Nothing. The lighting looked unbalanced, harsh in some places and dull in others.

The new Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s successor, had made no secret of his desire to chronicle Iran’s greatest technological achievement ever. When the time was right, he wanted the world to see the true scope of his country’s accomplishment, so long hidden behind innuendo and subterfuge. Like the mullahs themselves, he was at heart a braggart obsessed with cementing his own legacy in a way history could not deny.

Najjar, the award winning Iranian filmmaker chosen for that task, was virtually the same height and weight as McCracken and the two men bore more than a passing resemblance to each other right up to the scruffiness of their tightly trimmed beards. Of course, the plan was not without its flaws. Most notably, McCracken had no idea when Najjar would be summoned to capture the Natanz facility in all its glory. Based on the current timetable for the Iranians’ ability to generate enough fissionable material from the refuse of their vast centrifuges, though, he guessed no more than six months.

It turned out to be only two.

The filmmaker Najjar was already under twenty-four-hour surveillance by Israeli Mossad agents long entrenched within Iranian society. Barely an hour after the filmmaker was contacted by Minister Hosseini’s office on extremely short notice, McCracken boarded a private jet with a make-up specialist on board to finish the job of matching his appearance as closely as possible to Najjar’s. The result, after a laborious process that took much of the flight, exceeded even his expectations. The lone oversight had been not to disguise the scar through McCracken’s left eyebrow from a wayward bullet decades before.  Although Minister Hosseini had clearly noticed it, he seemed unbothered by its presence. 

While Najjar waited in his apartment for his government car to arrive, a fresh Mossad team just in country entered his apartment by using a key fit to the specifications of his lock based on the serial number. The filmmaker, who was still packing, was unconscious in seconds with McCracken ready in his stead, equipment in hand, as soon as the car arrived for the first leg of his journey.  

Once out of the elevator, he knew he was about to encounter plenty not mentioned in David’s reports on the structure and its schematics. Israel’s intelligence on the Natanz facility was an amalgamation of satellite reconnaissance, prisoner and defector interrogations, and four separate brilliantly crafted infiltrations. Each of these had revealed the particulars of at least a section of the facility, but even taken in sum they didn’t offer a thorough rendering of all of it.

The assembled intelligence did reveal a sprawling single-level underground facility. The original plans had called for multiple levels but this had proven too onerous from both a construction and security standpoint. Natanz had been chosen for the site of the plant specifically because of the heavy layers of limestone and shale beneath which it would be contained, along with an under layer of nearly impenetrable volcanic rock formed in prehistoric times. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the nuclear generating plant that sat at ground level was not positioned directly over the underground facility at all; rather, it served as effective camouflage for the vast tunneling efforts that had forged Natanz from the side instead of from above. The facility was laid out roughly in a square, the size of six football fields laid next to each other, and featured the sophisticated technology required to enrich uranium along with the centrifuges responsible for generating it, a process that undoubtedly included the massive pumps and water systems required for cooling.

But the very features that made Natanz impenetrable to an attack from above made it vulnerable to what McCracken was planning from within.

David versus Goliath indeed.

“One more thing before we get started,” Hosseini said, opening a door McCracken hadn’t noticed before. “If you’d join me inside here. . .”

* * *

It was a locker room, more or less, each open cubicle featuring an orange radiation suit and wrist monitor hanging from a hook inside.

“Standard procedure,” the minister explained. “The lightest weight suit manufactured anywhere. You slip it on right over your clothes,” he continued, starting to do just that himself.

McCracken followed in step. Modern, sophisticated nuclear plants like this were hardly prone to leaks, so the donning of such protective material could only mean Hosseini meant what he said about assembling a complete picture of one of the world’s most secret facilities. And something else was obvious as well: That after hearing and seeing so much, there was no way McCracken was getting out of here alive.




Author Bio: 

Jon Land is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of 36 books, including the bestselling Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series that includes Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance and, most recently, Strong Rain Falling. The Tenth Circle marks the second return engagement of his longtime series hero Blaine McCracken on the heels of last year’s Pandora’s Temple which was nominated for a Thriller Award and received the 2013 International Book Award for Best Adventure Thriller. Jon’s first nonfiction book, Betrayal, meanwhile, was named Best True Crime Book of 2012 by Suspense Magazine and won a 2012 International Book Award for Best True Crime Book. He is currently working on Strong Darkness, the next entry in the Caitlin Strong to be published in September of 2014. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude from Brown University, where he continues to maintain a strong volunteer presence, in 1979 and can be found on the Web at www.jonlandbooks.com.


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