Fun whodunnits from Coulter and Ellison

If you like police/FBI procedurals that aren’t jammed with weapons/ship/helicopter specifications of the kind you’ll find in the Tom Clancy (and similar) books, may I suggest Catherine Coulter? Her on-going “FBI Thriller” series began in 1996 with The Cove and continues through 23 books to Labyrinth which came out in July.  The also co-writes “A Brit in the FBI Thriller” series with author J. T. Ellison.

I think I’ve read all of the FBI thrillers from the beginning and find them consistent. While some of them include some pretty nasty crimes, they are not gory. They focus on a married couple, Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock who are equally skilled and usually work together on cases. Sherlock is a crack shot and Savich is a computer geek with a search engine called MAX that he uses to help track down the bad guys. He’s also very intuitive, and that adds a nice wrinkle to the stories.

The Brit series features Scotland Yard agent Nicholas Drummond who first appeared in 2013 in The Final Cut.  The most recent book in the series is The Last Second.  As part of a special team, Drummond often finds himself back across the pond helping out in cases originating in the U. K.

I like the original FBI series the best because I’ve been reading it for quite a while and have watched the characters grow and mature and take on new kinds of assignments. A new reader, however, will find the two series similar in style. With few exceptions, the books can be read in any order.

From the Publisher’s Description for Labyrinth

“If there’s one thing that readers can count on in a Coulter novel it is that she always delivers amazingly eerie and complex thrillers” (RT Book Reviews), and Labyrinth is no different. With white-knuckled pacing and shocking twists and turns, this is another electrifying novel that will sink its teeth in you.

From the Publisher’s Description for The Last Second

From New York Times bestselling authors Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison comes a riveting thriller pitting special agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine against a private French space agency that has the power to end the world as we know it.

I’ve enjoyed the original series for years and have found the Brit series equally engaging. Perhaps it’s also your cup of tea.



Book Review: ‘Mister Max’ by Cynthia Voigt

mistermaxNewbery medalist Cynthia Voigt (“Kingdom,” “Tillerman” and “Bad Girls” series) brings her considerable storytelling experience to an inventive adventure with a unique and resourceful protagonist. Intended for readers from 8-12, Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things is the first in a planned trilogy about the likeable and realistically drawn twelve-year-old Maximilian Starling.

Day to day, he’s just Max, a schoolboy who doesn’t quite fit in with his peers because his parents are larger-than-life and excessively flamboyant theater people who find drama in everything. Just Max is just “different.” Max’s has a nagging problem: his parents are lost. They’re lost as in missing, misplaced, misunderstood, potentially kidnapped, or enacting a drama without due regard to Max who’s been left behind in an empty house.

Fortunately, his grandmother lives nearby. Unfortunately she is, in Max’s opinion, inclined to be bossy. They agree, however, that it’s better for Max’s school to assume Max is on a trip with his parents. After all, that was the plan before William and Mary Starling of the Starling Theatrical Company disappeared. Grammie and Max also agree that the authorities, whoever they may be, need not know about Max’s mostly empty house.

Readers will identify with Max because, like any twelve-year-old with lost parents, Max is a bit overwhelmed by the questions and emotions racing through his head. However, he is determined to meet the challenges of independence head on. He needs money and that means he needs a job even though nobody seems to be hiring twelve-year-old applicants without experience.

Voigt has blessed her protagonist with a skill he doesn’t immediately see has having any value outside the walls of the Starling Theatrical Company: he knows about roles and costumes. While he doesn’t really want to call himself a private detective, the world of roles and costumes and his preoccupation with that which is lost make him adept at helping others–at a reasonable fee–find what they need to find.

The story is filled with memorable characters, humor and a series of lost and found adventures that will stir up the imaginations of young readers who might speculate about what they would do if their parents were lost. Voigt’s words, which (figuratively, of course) dance and sparkle on the page, are supported by Iacopo Bruno’s magical illustrations.

The illustrations and plot twists bring a heady 19th-century daring-do to a story that sweeps toward a suitably over-the-top cliffhanger ending that should satisfy readers while Voigt decides how Max is going to find his way out of his next dilemma. Young readers will find that Mister Max is filled with wonder, mystery and plenty of adventure.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy short stories and novels including “The Seeker” and “Emily’s Stories.”