The Spy’s Gamble by Howard Kaplan @kaplanhow #blogtour #TheSpysGamble #extract #excerpt #LoveBooksGroupTours

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Spy’s Gamble by Howard Kaplan! My thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Group Tours for the invitation to join and for providing me with the extract I’ll be sharing with you, right after I tell you what the book is all about.

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Author : Howard Kaplan
Title : The Spy’s Gamble
Series : The Jerusalem Spy Series
Pages : 262
Publisher : n/a
Publication date : June 8, 2018

aboutthebook

When the Israeli Prime Minister boards a new stealth submarine in Norfolk, Virginia intending a celebratory ride and the sub vanishes, it sets in motion a suspenseful story that intertwines the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a story of what could be.

Shai Shaham—an Israeli intelligence officer—contacts old friend and adversary Ramzy Awwad—a former PLO intelligence officer and one of the great writers of his people—for help in locating the missing prime minister. But can they trust each other? Can their friendship withstand the turbulent political landscape?

Eli Bardin—an agent who is feeling the strain of being away from his wife and children for so long in the field—is also tasked to contact Ramzy for the help in finding the missing sub. It seems the Russian have great interest in the technology, and he must locate the prime minister…because losing him is a national calamity that threatens to upset a delicate political balance in the most terrifying ways.

extract

Eli kept the increasing toll of being away so much from his family deeply buried, even from himself. Often of late, the anxiety he had not known since high school and his twenties ran through him like a quiet unease so familiar that at first he hardly noticed it. He was not sure if the current free-floating nervousness was worry about his country’s future, a weariness from fighting a battle that these days seemed to carry his country further from peace, or a desire to do something different with his life.

A religious soul, Eli had stopped believing in God for reasons he refused to discuss. It had opened a small but painful rift with his religious father that Eli wanted to close but did not know how because his abandoning faith was a deeply personal and firm decision. When home, he followed tradition and studied Talmud, the vast compendium of ancient Jewish law, though he was an atheist. His attachment to the Jewish people ran through his every fibre, something gleaned from his father’s life and work, which were uniquely inseparable. Eli disliked alcohol and cigarettes, though it didn’t bother him to partake in either if his cover required it. What he loved was challenging himself, particularly parking in impossibly tight spaces and remembering long passages of a target’s words verbatim. He sensed that he made little impression at parties until he started talking with his quiet erudition and natural warmth. He felt calm and comfortable when busy or with people, where he was often funny, absorbed too from his father. He was bothered that recently the anxiousness had begun creeping in when he was alone with his thoughts. Before heading from New York to Washington, he had their file on CIA agent James Collins emailed to him.

Ten years out from Oberlin College, Collins had imagined himself working in legal aid in public housing keeping with Oberlin’s bona fides. A private liberal arts college, students regularly left Oberlin’s small yet sprawling campus in the Ohio countryside for the Peace Corps and other service. CIA recruiters never made the trek to Oberlin, as they did to Yale, but Collins, who had Ivy SAT scores and state college grades but interviewed better than about everyone, was introduced to Langley by his banker father, a Yale alumnus, after Collins, who was inherently restless, tired of working as a legal aid assistant in New Orleans for $35,000 a year. Collins had a great time, however, playing the guitar at small, dingy French Quarter clubs, where he made sure to enjoy the music and the women equally. Any Oberlin student could take classes in the renown Conservatory at the edge of the entrance grass quad. Students too could rent original Picasso, Chagall, Matisse and other such works for five dollars a semester from their art museum to grace dorm walls, a program begun in 1940, that had yet to have a work irrevocably beer-soaked.

Collins smashed through life creating havoc he was eager to apologize profusely for, and then repeat, and had sidestepped the art rental program, afraid he’d be the one to destroy a painting in one of his fits of rage. Instead, he found it wiser, when a freshman, to avail himself of jazz guitar lessons from a Conservatory female junior, for which they both received elective credit. Collins impatiently waited until three-quarters of the semester were over to sleep with her lest the lessons be impacted by his propensity to bolt post seduction. She was a greater virtuoso in the practice room than the bedroom, so he had been in a hurry to return to scouring the campus performance cafes.

“You got to Washington fast,” Collins said, shifting into playing Elliot Smith’s “Miss Misery.”

“Very, because I was already here. Advance team for our prime minister’s christening ride aboard his new nuclear sub.” Eli knew Israel had five German-built submarines, but this purchase was of a new class of American stealth submersibles.

“Bad timing that two of your crewmen were plowed through.”

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If this wee teaser has left you wanting more, then The Spy’s Gamble is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

HOWARD KAPLAN, a native of Los Angeles, has lived in Israel and traveled extensively through Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.

At the age of 21, he was sent on a mission into the Soviet Union to smuggle a dissident’s manuscript on microfilm to London. His first trip was a success. On his second trip, he transferred a manuscript to the Dutch Ambassador inside his Moscow embassy. A week later, he was arrested in Khartiv in the Ukraine and interrogated for two days there and then two days in Moscow, before being expelled from the USSR. The KGB had picked him up for meeting dissidents and did not know about the manuscript transfers.

He holds a BA in Middle East History from UC Berkeley and an MA in Philosophy of Education from UCLA. He is the author of five novels.

DAMASCUS COVER is now a major motion picture starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Sir John Hurt and Olivia Thirlby.

Author links : Twitter

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Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman @DanFesperman @AAKnopf @crimebythebook #blogtour #extract

It’s a pleasure to join the blog tour for Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman today! My thanks to Abby Endler at Knopf for the invitation to join and for providing the fab extract I’ll be sharing with you, right after I tell you what Safe Houses is all about.

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Author : Dan Fesperman
Title : Safe Houses
Pages : 416
Publisher : Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date : July 3, 2018

aboutthebook

West Berlin, 1979. Helen Abell oversees the CIA’s network of safe houses, rare havens for field agents and case officers amidst the dangerous milieu of a city in the grips of the Cold War. Helen’s world is upended when, during her routine inspection of an agency property, she overhears a meeting between two people unfamiliar to her speaking a coded language that hints at shadowy realities far beyond her comprehension. Before the day is out, she witnesses a second unauthorized encounter, one that will place her in the sightlines of the most ruthless and powerful man at the agency. Her attempts to expose the dark truths about what she has witnessed will bring about repercussions that reach across decades and continents into the present day, when, in a farm town in Maryland, a young man is arrested for the double murder of his parents, and his sister takes it upon herself to find out why he did it.

extract

Chapter 1

Berlin, 1979

The older man sat down at the kitchen table in the back of the safe house and recited the words for a second time. His monotone made it sound like a lesson, or maybe an incantation— some spell he was trying to cast over his listener:

“To swim the pond you must forsake the bay. You may touch the lake, but you must never submerge, and you must always return to the pond.”

The younger man, with his arms crossed, nodded.

“And the zoo?”
“Dry. To all of us, anyway. The pond is also dry, to the zookeeper.”

A pause, a wheezing intake of breath. “All of their people believe it to be long since drained, and its waters shall forever be invisible. Except of course to those of us with special eyewear. And that’s what we’re offering, if you’re interested.”

“Eyewear?”
“So to speak. A new way of seeing. And access, opportunity. More than you’ve ever dreamed of.”

The older man poured some whiskey. He swallowed and set down the glass sharply, like he was knocking for entry.

“You don’t understand a word of it, do you?”
“Some of it. Not all.”
“We’re inviting you in. But before that can happen we have to dry you off.”
“From my swim in the bay?”
“Of course.”

The younger man frowned and shuffled his feet. But the tilt of his head, the narrowing of his eyes, betrayed heightened interest. He uncrossed his arms and spoke again.

“First you have to tell me more.”
“No. First you have to tell me the route you took to get here.”
“Just like you said.”
“You were alone? No shadows, start to finish?”
“You saw the finish. There was no one at the start, either.”
“Positive? Even on the S- Bahn?”
“I took every precaution. The route was clean. I have done this before, you know.”

A long pause, followed by another gurgle of whiskey, a second knock of the glass.

“Come here, then.” The wheeze, yet again. “Sit down.”

The younger man took a step forward and then stopped, as if something else had just occurred to him.

“What if it’s no sale? This isn’t one of those things where if you tell me then you have to kill me, is it?”

The older man laughed, choppy notes from an old accordion.

“Come. Have a drink.”
“Was that a yes or no?”

“It wasn’t a yes-no question. Sit down and I’ll explain. People are dying out there, Lewis. They’re drowning with no one in the whole damn bay to save them, and you can change that overnight. As that Polish girl of yours likes to say, time’s a- wasting.”

“How do you know about her?”
“Rule one, Lewis. Always assume we know more than you think.”

Upstairs, in the room with the equipment, Helen Abell took note of the name “Lewis” as she leaned forward on stocking feet, straining to listen through the headset. A cryptonym, no doubt, but something about it was familiar. He wasn’t part of Berlin station— or, as the old-timers still called it, the Berlin Operations Base, or BOB—but maybe she had come across his name in a memo, or the cable traffic.

For the next few seconds all she heard was the sound of the younger man’s footsteps crossing the kitchen floor—clop, clop, clop, as loud as a Clydesdale— and the scrape of a chair as he sat at the table. It made her recall his polished black shoes, clunky, like the ones the East Germans wore.

The men had arrived a few minutes earlier. Helen had peeked out the window the moment she heard the rattle of a key in the lock, and she’d spotted them on the doorstep out front. Unexpected visitors, and neither looked familiar. But the mention of “Lewis” was a thread she could work with.

The wheels of the tape recorder kept turning, twin planets in rotation, absorbing every word. She was afraid to move lest the floor creak, giving her away. Too late to announce her presence. Was she wrong to leave the recorder on? To be listening at all? Probably. Undoubtedly. The whole thing was almost certainly way above her clearance. But she’d never heard any conversation like it.

From her brief observation she’d discerned that both men carried themselves with an air of competence and seniority—experienced hands in a special order, one which she aspired to join. It was like eavesdropping on a conversation of the gods. Nonetheless, she was off-limits and it was time to bow out. She should switch off the recorder, remove the headphones, and quietly wait for them to leave.

With a sigh, she reached for the off switch.

Then the needles flicked on the dials as the younger man spoke, and her hand stopped in midair. He’d lowered his voice, and Helen, unable to help herself, squinted in concentration to make out the words.

“Do the effies know?”
“Not a thing, or not since Jack kicked the bucket in ’72.”
“Jack? You mean . . . ?”
“Of course.”
“He was a friend?”
“Of a sort. The enemy of my enemy, that whole business. Last of his kind. Here, drink up.”

A splash of whiskey, then silence.

Helen was transfixed. What in the hell were they talking about? The effies. The zoo. The pond, the bay, and the lake. And now a reference to a former power figure named Jack— probably another cryptonym. Everything about the conversation was baffling, and not just because she didn’t know the lingo.

For starters, why speak in code? The whole point of a safe house was to make you feel secure enough to dispense with the mumbo jumbo. You kicked back, put your feet up, traded all the secrets you wanted in the plainest possible language. Safely, and with absolute confidence. That’s how she’d rigged these houses, four of them in all across the zones and neighborhoods of West Berlin, available at any given moment for privileged access and secret consultation. Each house was clean, unobtrusive, and practically soundproofed against the curiosity of neighbors, due mostly to her own efforts during the past year.

She was particularly proud of the job she’d done at this location, a crumbling brick townhouse a block south of Alt-Moabit. She had labored zealously to craft the most secure possible environment for the Company’s case officers and their agents, or for whoever else among their friends might temporarily need shelter from the cold and lonely hazards of their profession.

Why, then, this strange collection of buzzwords? Unless it wasn’t so much a code as a special language— and, yes, there was a difference—an exclusive lexicon for some obscure fraternity of operatives. Perhaps for someone with a higher security clearance this would be no mystery at all.

She also wondered how the men had gotten a key. Helen knew the identities of all six key holders for this house. Someone had given them a key without telling her. That in itself was a serious breach of security.

In addition, the meeting was unscheduled. When people wanted to use one of her facilities—okay, one of the Agency’s facilities—the rules said they were supposed to provide at least six hours’ notice, so she could ensure that no one else would barge in on them, and that conditions would be welcoming and ready. Before she took over, embarrassing run-ins and overlaps had been infrequent but not at all unheard of, a state of affairs that the chief of station had seemed to accept as an occupational hazard. Helen had taken pains to eliminate such snafus. It was all in the details— controlling the leaseholders, managing traffic, making the places easy to use, clean, and functional.

She had carefully vetted the current cover tenant for this house, a Pan Am stewardess with Agency connections whose work schedule meant she was home only on Wednesdays and Sundays, and even on those days could clear the premises at a moment’s notice.

There were contingencies for unannounced meetings, of course, and also for use by operatives and agents who weren’t regular customers. Espionage emergencies were hardly uncommon in Berlin. But the meeting Helen was hearing downstairs had none of the snap or crackle of an urgent rendezvous.

This chat was unrushed, collegial, and despite the age difference she suspected that these men were on roughly equal footing, meaning it probably wasn’t a meeting between a case officer and his local agent. Their English was flawless, no trace of a foreign accent. They were either American or very practiced at pretending to be American.

Of course, technically speaking, Helen wasn’t supposed to be there, either. That was the rub, and the reason for her deathly silence. Unbeknownst to the Agency, she had begun making surprise weekly inspections of her four properties. It was the most efficient way to uncover shabby upkeep and lax practices. She kept the visits off the books or they wouldn’t have worked. Yet another way in which she went the extra mile, a trait she’d become known for since her arrival in Berlin fourteen months earlier.

The job certainly hadn’t been her top choice. Not even close. She’d always suspected that the chief of station, a randy old mossback named Ladd Herrington, made the assignment to demean her, to put her in her place.

“You’re only twenty-three?” he’d said on that first day, peeping above the frames of reading glasses as he pawed through her file. His eyes wandered quickly from her face to her breasts, where he let them rest long enough to make her uncomfortable.

“You do know you’d be happier as an analyst, don’t you? In the long term, anyway. Much better prospects for advancement. For marriage, too, although perhaps that doesn’t interest you. Here, on the other hand . . .”

He flapped a hand dismissively, as if they were assessing her chances of discovering a new comet, or of recruiting Leonid Brezhnev as a double agent. Analyst. The default assignment for any Agency female, except the ones exiled to records, or to some other “special branch” of this or that department as long as it was well behind the scenes.

Hardly any made it into the field. Nonetheless, there she’d been, arriving on Herrington’s doorstep with only two years of experience for a posting to the city that had defined the Cold War, and he’d responded by slotting her in a position that until then had been largely clerical, staffed by someone two steps below her pay grade. To make it sound less offensive, or perhaps to heighten the joke, he’d come up with a new title: Chief of Administration for Logistics, Property and Personnel Branch, Berlin Station.

Helen had sulked for a week before deciding to make the most of it. She explored and then exploited the job’s opportunities, which turned out to be more expansive than anyone had realized. She revetted the tenants, rescouted the locations. Finding all of them lacking, she replaced them several months ahead of the usual rotation. She tightened hiring practices for support staff, upgraded the facilities at minimal cost, and instituted greater accountability among users. Overlaps and screwups disappeared, as did the mice and bedbugs. Complaints from field men dwindled. She made connections, widened her niche, found a lover, and settled in to Berlin’s cold, grim majesty with a sardonic viewpoint worthy of a lifer.

And now, here she was, caught in the middle of one of her surprise inspections, silent and still and, for the moment, trapped upstairs on a gray October Monday at mid- afternoon as she wondered what the hell she’d stumbled onto.

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Well, I don’t know about you but I’m very intrigued! If you are as well and you’d like to read more, Safe Houses is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Wordery | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Dan Fesperman’s travels as a writer have taken him to thirty countries and three war zones. Lie in the Dark won the Crime Writers’ Association of Britain’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for best first crime novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows won their Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller, and The Prisoner of Guantánamo won the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Association of Crime Writers. He lives in Baltimore.

Author links : Twitter

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To Die in Vienna by Kevin Wignall @AmazonPub @annecater #blogtour #RandomThingsTours

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for To Die in Vienna By Kevin Wignall. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my review copy, which I received via Netgalley.

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Author : Keith Wignall
Title : To Die in Vienna
Pages : 270
Publisher : Thomas & Mercer
Publication date : June 14, 2018

aboutthebook

Freddie Makin is a spy for hire. For a year he’s been watching Jiang Cheng, an academic whose life seems suspiciously normal. To Freddie it’s just a job: he never asks who’s paying him and why—until the day someone is sent to kill him, and suddenly the watcher becomes the watched.

On the run from whoever wants him dead, Freddie knows he must have seen something incriminating. The only trouble is, he has no idea what. Is the CIA behind all this—or does it go higher than that? Have his trackers uncovered his own murky past?

As he’s forced into a lethal dance across Vienna, Freddie knows one thing for sure: his only hope for survival is keeping the truth from the other side, and making sure the secrets from his past stay hidden.

mythoughts

Set in the wonderful city of Vienna, we are introduced to a rather unlikely spy. Freddie Makin has been watching a Chinese academic, Jiang Cheng, for the past year and thinks he knows everything there is to know about him. Until one day, someone is sent to kill Freddie, his equipment is removed and Cheng disappears. Freddie must have seen something he wasn’t supposed to but what? And who is after him?

Not that I’m an expert on spy thrillers because I’ve not read that many of them, but as far as this one goes, it was a tad on the slow side for the majority of the book. Now, that’s not a bad thing as the tension and action does build up along the way and you get a good feeling about the kind of person Freddie is. He’s quite the likeable character, someone to sympathise with and to root for as he tries to find a way out of this sticky web he’s found himself in. But if you’re looking for fast-paced action, nifty gadgets, car chases and explosions, you won’t find those here. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this change of pace.

Things are slightly tricky for Freddie. After a failed mission in Yemen, he left a covert CIA unit five years ago and so he lacks experience, confidence and doubts his abilities. On top of that, he’s also suffering from nightmares and has trouble sleeping. Not the best combination when you need all your wits about you. And so we get that most classic of stories about an innocent person finding himself outside of his comfort zone and desperately trying to make it out alive. But Freddie has no resources to dig into, no fancy gadgets and no idea who to trust.

To Die in Vienna is an intelligently plotted, intriguing and suspenseful spy thriller. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Freddie, who’s so far removed from the cliché spy we usually get and there are also a few wonderful supporting characters, none of which I trusted at all. This is an entertaining and engaging read that made for quite the fun afternoon. Will Freddie be able to bury the demons of his past? Will he survive this ordeal? That’s for me to know and for you to find out.

By the way, this will soon be a movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal so look out for that! But, as always, read the book first 😉

To Die in Vienna is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Kevin Wignall is a British writer, born in Brussels in 1967. He spent many years as an army child in different parts of Europe, and went on to study politics and international relations at Lancaster University. He became a full-time writer after the publication of his first book, People Die (2001). His other novels are Among the Dead (2002); Who Is Conrad Hirst? (2007), shortlisted for the Edgar Award and the Barry Award; and Dark Flag (2010). The Hunter’s Prayer was originally titled For the Dogs in the USA. The film The Hunter’s Prayer, directed by Jonathan Mostow and starring Sam Worthington and Odeya Rush, will be released worldwide in 2015.

Author link : Website

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88° North by J.F. Kirwan @kirwanjf @rararesources #blogtour

Such a pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for 88° North by J.F. Kirwan! My thanks to J.F. Kirwan, to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity and to the publisher for my review copy.

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Author : J.F. Kirwan
Title : 88° North
Series : Nadia Laksheva #3
Pages : 384
Publisher : HQ Digital
Publication date : December 14, 2017

aboutthebook

The deadliest kind of assassin is one who is already dying…

As the radiation poisoning that Nadia Laksheva was exposed to in Chernobyl takes hold of her body, she knows she has mere weeks to live. But Salamander, the terrorist who murdered her father and sister has a deadly new plan to ‘make the sky bleed’. Nadia is determined to stop him again, even if it is the last thing she ever does…

The only clue she has are the coordinates 88˚ North, a ridge in the Arctic right and one of the largest oil fields in the world, three thousand metres below the ice. If Salamander takes hold of the oil field, he could change the climate of the whole planet for generations to come.

But can Nadia stop him before her own time runs out?

mythoughts

88° North is the third and final instalment in the Nadia Laksheva spy series and what an amazing ride it’s been. This review may be a tad on the vague side as I desperately try to avoid spoiling anyone for events that happened in the previous books. Personally, I don’t feel you should treat this one as a stand-alone. While some things are explained and will give you a good feel of the background story, I think you should read the entire series to really understand where Nadia is coming from and why she’s so determined to stop Salamander. This isn’t just about making sure a terrorist doesn’t ruin the planet. It’s also personal.

Throughout the series, I sometimes found Nadia quite hard to warm to but I never ceased to admire her sheer determination in doing what was necessary. Even if it went against her own principles. In 88° North, she tries to restore a balance that was screwed up, to see the smaller picture instead of the bigger picture, to do a kind act and hope for some kind of ripple effect and just like that, I liked her that little bit more.

But the biggest threat is of course Salamander, who will stop at nothing and his next plan is to “make the sky bleed”. True to form, this spy thriller takes us to various exotic places around the world including Russia, Hong Kong and The Sudan. One word : camels! As the team is unwillingly split up in their pursuit of Salamander, they realise they are merely pawns in his game. Like a true chess master, Salamander is always several steps ahead and time is running out. Not only for the world, but for Nadia as well.

Full of tension, thrills and harrowing moments, 88° North is the perfect conclusion to this series. Some characters even managed to surprise me and the tense knife fights had me on the edge of my seat. What I truly liked is that you’re never really sure who will survive. The author has no qualms in killing off what could be important characters and I always like it when I’m left guessing as to who will make it out alive.

While it’s always sad to see a series come to an end, I feel J.F. Kirwan wrapped things up brilliantly. The exciting arc that runs throughout the three books had me hooked and if you like your well-paced and action-packed spy thrillers, I have no doubt you will thoroughly enjoy this series! I look forward to whatever J.F. Kirwan comes up with next!

88° North is available from the links below. While there, why not pick up the other two books as well.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | KoboGoodreads

abouttheauthor

J. F. Kirwan is the author of the Nadia Laksheva thriller series for HarperCollins. Having worked in accident investigation and prevention in nuclear, offshore oil and gas and aviation sectors, he uses his experience of how accidents initially build slowly, then race towards a climax, to plot his novels. An instructor in both scuba diving and martial arts, he travels extensively all over the world, and loves to set his novels in exotic locations. He is also an insomniac who writes in the dead of night. His favourite authors include Lee Child, David Baldacci and Andy McNab.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Website

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37 Hours by J.F. Kirwan @kirwanjf @rararesources #blogtour

Delighted to host a stop on the blog tour for 37 Hours by J.F. Kirwan today. My thanks to the publisher and Rachel’s Random Resources and apologies for the delay in posting this.

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Author : J.F. Kirwan
Title : 37 Hours
Series : Nadia Laksheva Spy Thriller #2
Pages :
Publisher : HQ Digital
Publication date : March 17, 2017

aboutthebook

After two long years spent in a secret British prison, Nadia Laksheva is suddenly granted her freedom. Yet there is a dangerous price to pay for her release: she must retrieve the Russian nuclear warhead stolen by her deadliest enemy, a powerful and ruthless terrorist known only as The Client.

But her mysterious nemesis is always one step ahead and the clock is ticking. In 37 hours, the warhead will explode, reducing the city of London to a pile of ash. Only this time, Nadia is prepared to pull the trigger at any cost…

The deadly trail will take her from crowded Moscow to the silent streets of Chernobyl, but will Nadia find what she is looking for before the clock hits zero?

mythoughts

The only way to hunt down a killer, is to become one …

37 Hours is the second book in the Nadia Laksheva series and hoo boy, what a thriller this is! If you thought 66 Metres was good, let me tell you right now that this one is even better! If you haven’t read the first book, I would recommend that you do if you want to get the full picture and background of the various characters. And even if you don’t, read it anyway because it’s just that great!

This second instalment picks up two years after the previous book. Nadia has spent two years in a secret British prison, being interrogated about her involvement in the chase for The Rose. But suddenly she’s granted freedom when a warhead is stolen from a submarine. Not only will Nadia need to face her biggest enemy, she will also be confronted with her past. And all the while, the clock is ticking and the city of London is under threat.

37 Hours had me hooked from the first page and didn’t let go. This is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller where the Russians aren’t the bad guys for a change. How novel! 😄. In fact, the bad guy may as well be a ghost. Nobody seems to know what he looks like. Full of international conspiracies and intrigue, it had me completely engrossed. True to form, there’s a bit of traveling and an unforgiving place that played a big and rather dark part in history features quite prominently but I won’t say anymore about that. You’ll just have to find out for yourself. I mention it because I really liked how the author was able to incorporate that bit.

I said it in my review for 66 Metres and I’ll gladly say it again. The Nadia Laksheva series would make a fantastic tv show or movie. Suspenseful, highly entertaining, brilliantly written, some guts and gore … What more could you possibly want? I enjoyed this one immensely and it left me wanting more. Luckily, there’s a third and final book in the series, 88° North, which I’ll be reviewing in April. I can’t wait to read it and see how J.F. Kirwan wraps up this series!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

J. F. Kirwan is the author of the Nadia Laksheva thriller series for HarperCollins. Having worked in accident investigation and prevention in nuclear, offshore oil and gas and aviation sectors, he uses his experience of how accidents initially build slowly, then race towards a climax, to plot his novels. An instructor in both scuba diving and martial arts, he travels extensively all over the world, and loves to set his novels in exotic locations. He is also an insomniac who writes in the dead of night. His favourite authors include Lee Child, David Baldacci and Andy McNab.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Website

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The Meal of Fortune by Philip Brady @philbradyUK @annecater #blogtour #extract #MealofFortune

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Meal of Fortune by Philip Brady. I have an extract to share with you today but first, here’s what the book is all about.

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Author : Philip Brady
Title : The Meal of Fortune
Pages : 384
Publisher : Unbound
Publication date : November 14, 2017

aboutthebook

The worlds of arms dealing, espionage and TV cookery collide in this fast moving comedy caper.

Failing celebrity agent Dermot Jack thinks his luck might have turned when a mysterious Russian oligarch hires him to represent his pop star daughter.

Disaffected MI5 officer Anna Preston is just as happy to be handed the chance to resurrect her own career. Little do they know that their paths are about to cross again after seventeen years as they’re thrown together in a desperate attempt to lure a notorious arms dealer into a highly unusual trap.

Hard enough without having to deal with the lecherous celebrity chef trying to save his daytime TV career or the diminutive mafia enforcer who definitely has his own agenda. Then there’s the very impatient loan shark who ‘just wants his money back’.

And Anna’s bosses are hardly playing it straight either. But one thing’s for sure. There’ll be winners and losers when the Meal of Fortune finally stops spinning. Oh, and another thing, Anna and Dermot are absolutely not about to fall in love again. That’s never going to happen, OK?

extract

Chapter 1

Every Thursday the music would start in Dermot’s head the moment the bell sounded. And even before he got to the front door he’d be dancing inside. The little girl would already be out of the car, running up the path, one hand tucking a lock of long dark hair behind her ear, the other clutching the bag filled with a whole week’s worth of things she’d bought to show him. She’d always be laughing.

The music inside could be anything: that year’s big feel-good summer hit or some long-forgotten guilty pleasure with a heavy synth bass and cheesy samples. It didn’t matter; it always got him dancing inside.

And every Thursday the little girl would sit up at the kitchen counter to do the homework her mother had so thoughtfully saved up for her one night with Daddy. Still, a little help here and there and they soon had it out of the way. Then it would be time for the bag to reveal its contents. Sometimes one by one, more often all at the same time. Pictures she’d drawn as well as other random (and often unidentifiable) works of art. Stickers (what was it with kids and stickers?) and various little bits and bobs she’d collected along the way. Dermot would laugh and smile while he made her beans on toast. It wasn’t that he couldn’t cook (OK!). But Thursday was Molly’s night and it was her favourite. At bedtime ‘Just one more story’ ended up being three or four as they eked out every last minute of their time together. Their current record stood at eight.

And all the time the dance went on inside his head as the music carried on playing. Shaking, twisting and jiving. Sometimes a little breakdance or maybe even the disco strut.

As a younger man he’d got away with real dancing; at home, in the street, in the lobby of many an overpriced hotel. Just about anywhere. A few steps here, a spin or two there, maybe the odd little whoop. Amazing the allowances people made when you were young and all they wanted was their little own piece of you. But Dermot had learned long ago to keep it inside. The music, the dancing and a few other things besides.

‘The train will soon be arriving in London King’s Cross…’

He slipped out of his daydream to find the green of the countryside had given way to the dirty greys and dull browns of the city he’d always called home. So why did it feel like home was 400-odd miles behind him with an eight-year-old girl who still called him Daddy? Just. Little wonder the music inside didn’t play anymore.

Dermot stayed seated as the train slid to a halt, letting all the other passengers jostle their way off first. Only when the carriage was empty did he reach up and grab his small case from the overhead rail and head for the door.

Scotland, for God’s sake. Actually no: he was going to get it right. Scotland, for fuck’s sake.Not that he had any particular beef with the country. He’d just rather his ex-wife hadn’t taken his daughter to live there. With a man called Wayne. Wanker.

Come on… A Silicon Glen entrepreneur who’d made his first million at about the age of 12, then cashed it all in before the crash to become an organic cheese-maker.

Dermot gave the train a last look of lingering resentment as he stepped down to the platform and headed for the ticket barrier. He shouldn’t even have been on the sodding thing in the first place. Sarah’s phone call the previous Tuesday had changed that. ‘Erm, you see, the thing is…

That was the thing about his ex-wife. There was always some sort of ‘thing’. This time it was the work deadline that would make it ‘just impossible’ for her to bring Molly down to London for half term. As bloody discussed, agreed and promised. Sarah was happy enough for him to come up to Scotland to see Molly. Not to stay with them but there was no reason why he couldn’t take his daughter to Edinburgh for a couple of days. It was a safe enough offer for Sarah to make, knowing he wouldn’t be able to drop everything at work or afford the hotel. Well this time she’d be wrong. On both counts.

‘Great, I’ll book the train tomorrow.’

‘I mean… If you’re sure.’ A delicious note of doubt had crept into her voice.

‘It’s fine.’

After weeks of delays Marcus Diesel’s new contract was finally edging its way past the collection of pedants and timewasters that the TV-production company insisted on referring to as its legal department. But any further questions the lawyers concocted could be answered easily enough by phone or email.

With no way to un-invite him, Sarah had dialled the breeziness back up. ‘In that case, Molly’s got a surprise. You’ll never guess…’

‘Daddy, Daddy!’ Molly had come charging through the door of the mock Scottish castle she now called home and down the path towards him. Sarah had stayed in the doorway, the scowl she saved exclusively for Dermot doing little to hide how good she looked. Her blonde hair had been expensively cut into a shiny new bob and she’d lost weight too – something she’d never bothered with when she was with Dermot. But then he could hardly…

Maybe best not to go over all that again.

Wayne at least had shown enough tact to stay well out of sight, no doubt lurking in one of the large feasting halls of what, on closer inspection, appeared to be a genuine Scottish castle. Not such a wanker after all then? Although Dermot didn’t plan to let that count in the man’s favour. Molly had wrapped her arms around him in one of those special eight-year-old-hugs that promised to go on forever. Then she let go and looked up at him with her best smile.

‘Wayne bought me a pony.’

Of course he had. That would be the surprise Sarah had mentioned. And yes, she’d been right: he’d never have guessed. Not long ago Dermot had bought his daughter ice creams when there’d been something to celebrate. Now another man was buying her horses. Wayne’s ‘tact’ in making himself scarce was nothing more than good old-fashioned fear of a punch in the head. Dermot knew he’d been right to avoid a hasty reappraisal of the man’s wanker status.

‘He’s called Nugget. I get to ride him every day.’ The words tumbled out as if they were never going to stop. ‘And he’s got his own special bit of the stable too. It’s bigger than your whole flat, Daddy.’

Yeah cheers for that, Mol. Was it so wrong to wish the beast a nasty hoof infection or a fatal cheese-churning accident on Wayne?

Two days in Edinburgh had done much to close up the gap driven between Dermot and his daughter by the three months’ long separation and the arrival of the bloody horse. Molly had chatted away about old times as they’d done the zoo, the castle, the shops, plenty of cafés and then the zoo again (zoos were a big thing for her). It was all his Thursday nights rolled into one. The horse barely got a look in after first day. But all too soon he’d found himself back at Chateau Fromage.

‘Bye, darling. I’ll see you soon.’

‘Bye-bye, Daddy.’ She’d said it with a sad little smile. But it had only been little and not really that sad. Then she’d turned away, asking Sarah whether it was too late to have a ride on Nugget.

Dermot had been left to head back to the waiting taxi, wondering if the driver might know where to buy voodoo horse dolls in Edinburgh. And extra-long pins. But then he’d had a far better idea.

The station concourse was busy and Dermot dodged through the crowds, weighing up the choice of taxi or underground for the trip across London and home to Chiswick. The station clock read 4.29pm. So, with an hour of the working day left, he plumped for a taxi. Plenty of time to get on the phone to the production-company lawyers and ask why the bloody hell they were still stalling on Marcus Diesel’s contract.

The taxi queue moved with a swiftness that was as unexpected as it was welcome and five minutes later he was in a cab heading along Euston Road, his sleek black phone nestling snugly in his hand. The little device was no ordinary phone though. It was the lightsabre to his Luke Skywalker. In his hands it could be a weapon of almost unimaginable might. All his power (well, all his contacts) dwelled inside the neat glass-and-metal shell. With it he could unleash the force and battle the evil legion of Sith (talentless, wannabe celebs and over-paid fuckwit lawyers). He was looking at the home screen when the Jedi weapon sprang to life, the name of the dark lord of TV cookery himself written large across the screen. The thought of speaking to Marcus made Dermot’s whole face hurt on the best of days. It wasn’t for nothing that the man had been voted TV’s most annoying man three years on the spin. And that was by a viewing public who only had to watch his show rather than speak to him at least six times a day.

‘Marcus, hi.’ He took the call reluctantly, trying his hardest to keep the sigh from his voice.

‘Dermot what the—’

The rest of what Marcus had to say was drowned out by the siren of a passing fire engine. Not that it mattered; most of it would have been one or other derivative of the word ‘fuck’.

‘Come again?’

But all Dermot caught were a couple more ‘fuck’s and maybe a ‘bastard’ before another fire engine roared by.

‘Marcus, I can’t hear—’

But the chef had already hung up, presumably happy he’d got his message across. A combination of poor mobile reception, more emergency vehicles and an overly stubborn receptionist at the production company meant he was well past Shepherd’s Bush before he finally got through to the lawyer he needed to speak to. Then the signal went and he lost the call. Dermot looked at the lightsabre lying useless in his hand and decided to give it up for the day.

Fifteen minutes later he was closing the front door of his flat behind him and dumping his case in the narrow hallway as he headed for the sitting room. For five long years the flat had been his sanctuary, coming alive with the sound of Molly’s laughter every Thursday night and second weekend. Now it just felt cold and desolate; the scratched dining table and scruffy green sofas with their mismatched cushions were too big for the undersized sitting room. He tried not to think about that bastard horse lounging about in the comfort of its vast executive stable.

Without Molly’s regular visits to the flat he’d decided to forgo the cost of a cleaner and it was starting to show. Then there was the smell drifting from the kitchen, carrying more than a suggestion that he’d forgotten to put the dishwasher on before heading to Scotland. Dermot took in the mess of papers and used coffee cups on his desk as he thought about fighting his way through the stale stench to tackle the dishwasher. But the prospect of a pint and a pie in his local was always going to win that debate. His stomach was already grumbling as he headed back down the hall and pulled the front door open, only to find someone standing in his way.

‘Ah, Mr Jack, hello. My name is Yegor Koslov.’

The man wore an expensive suit and a cheap haircut. The hair was thinning and blond (possibly dyed) and quite a bit too long on top; what the uncharitable might have described as a comb-over. At six foot four he could have pulled it off but at five foot five and a bit he didn’t stand a chance.

‘You are a very hard man to track down.’

Jesus, that accent; like the first baddie to die in a low-rent spy movie. But when he looked down into the little man’s eyes he saw something hard and cold there, something that suggested it would be foolish to underestimate him. Dermot took a step backwards, ready to close the door. Because, well… It wasn’t every day a real-life Russian gangster came calling. The Russian bit he wasn’t quite so sure of, although the name and the accent were pretty big clues.

But gangster?

When you’d spend half your life scratching the fleshy underbelly of the entertainment business you knew a crook when you saw one.

‘I have a message for you from my employer.’ The man smiled, the chill never quite leaving his eyes.

Shit… Mulrooney.

‘Look, I can…’ Repaying the money he owed the big loan shark wasn’t going to be a problem. It just wouldn’t be happening today. Or that week even. The ‘better idea’ that had trumped the voodoo horse doll had also proved a lot more costly. The deposit and three months’ rent he’d forked out for a flat in Edinburgh meant he’d be able to go to Scotland and see Molly whenever he liked. But it also meant that he was skint again.

‘Tell him—’ Dermot took another step backwards. It didn’t look like he’d be getting that pie and pint after all. But the little fella wouldn’t look quite so tough with a face full of front door. He shoved as hard as he could with his shoulder.

‘That’s not very friendly, Mr Jack.’ Somehow Yegor Koslov had stepped backward and still managed to force his foot between the closing door and frame, moving surprisingly quickly for such a little man. ‘Not very friendly at all.’

Then the Russian started to push the door back open. Turned out that he was surprisingly strong for a little man as well.

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abouttheauthor

I was first inspired to write when I read Lord of The Rings as a child. Back then the ambition was to create a whole fantasy world with dragons and sword fights. Sadly George RR Martin seems to have cornered that market, so I now try to comedy thrillers set in the (almost) real world instead. These feature spies, gangsters, vicious (if feckless) criminals, washed-up private detectives and daytime TV presenters. The Meal of Fortune is my first published novel. It is the first in a planned trilogy of comedy thrillers parodying society’s obsession with celebrity.

The follow-up, Tinker Tailor Solider Chef, sees the characters reunited in an attempt to foil a plot by the world’s most secretive intelligence agency (The Belgians) to bring the UK economy to its knees. The final book, centres on a referendum in Wales to decide whether the country should sell itself to an international technology giant for use as a conveniently located tax haven. It will be loosely based on the hilarious 80s film Local Hero.

My main rule in life is to never let tomato ketchup touch any food that is green. I am yet to work out any deep meaning behind this and suspect it is not the soundest of principles by which to live your life. But it’s better than quite a few I’ve come across down the years. Best not to get started on that one though.

I live in London with my fantastic wife and two remarkable children and didn’t vote for BREXIT.

Twitter @philbradyuk

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