The 18th Abduction

By James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Little, Brown and Company

$29, hardcover

After all these years, and the scores of books bearing James Patterson’s name as author, books in the Women’s Murder Club series remain my favorites.

This one follows an old case in which Detective Lindsay Boxer was investigating the disappearance of three teachers.

The story is set five years in the past, when Lindsay and her husband, FBI agent Joe Molinari, are relative newlyweds and unexpectedly find themselves entangled in the same investigation.

Joe’s interest begins when he stops to help a young woman who tells him she has seen a war criminal known as the Butcher of Djoba, who has long been reported as dead.

She has contacted authorities, but they have ignored her story because of official statements concerning the war criminal’s death.

To Joe, however, her story is utterly convincing. She has no doubt about the man’s identity. He had repeatedly raped and injured her years earlier in her native country of Bosnia.

Joe begins looking into the matter unofficially and is convinced she is correct.

For some time, neither he nor Lindsay, who is desperately leading the search for three young teachers who have disappeared, realizes their cases are related.

One after another, two of the kidnapping victims are killed by her captors, and their bodies are discovered. The third teacher has somehow found the necessary strength to accede to her captors’ demands in order to stay alive.

Thanks to Lindsay and Joe, the case finally moves into a multi-agency investigation effort, as the imminent threat to the third kidnap victim adds a further edge of suspense.

I’m a fan of this series, and though some of them have been far better than others, I very much enjoyed this step back into a new case set in the past.

A Beginner’s Guide to Rakes

By Suzanne Enoch

St. Martin’s Press

$7.99, paperback

Lady Diane Benchley is a beautiful young widow whose husband has gambled away all their money. She falls in love with Oliver Warren, and they have an affair.

Two weeks later, suddenly terrified that he is about to be trapped into marriage, Oliver runs for his life. Left alone and destitute, Diane sells what she can of her late husband’s property managing to pay his debts, but vowing never again to trust a man.

Now she is in London, claiming the one residence she has managed to salvage. She is in the process of transforming it into a men’s gambling club when she realizes Oliver is in town.

The man Diane had planned to utilize as an instructor in her unusual gambling operation dies unexpectedly, and she blackmails Oliver into filling that role.

Justifying her actions because of his desertion, she hires a staff of women to operate her new business, provides an apartment in the mansion for Oliver’s use and opens her gambling casino with much fanfare.

Unfortunately, she is having trouble forgetting her feelings for Oliver, even though she continues to promise herself she will remain free of romantic entanglements.

Enoch’s well-motivated historical romance is a page-turner most readers of that genre will enjoy.

The Malta Exchange

By Steve Berry

Minotaur Books

$28.99, hardcover

Steve Berry’s series lead character, Cotton Malone, is a former U.S. Intelligence agent turned Danish bookseller. He has hired out for a new adventure that takes him — and the many readers of his fictional adventures — to the exotic island of Malta.

The plot involves historical events ranging from past happenings involving the Catholic Church to Charlemagne, Knights Templar and World War II Italian dictator Mussolini.

After the sudden death of the Catholic pope, a successor is needed, and as in most changes of leadership, an ambitious blackguard is willing to do whatever he must in order to be chosen.

Malone has been hired to retrieve some letters written by Winston Churchill to Adolph Hitler in the late 1930s.

These would be embarrassing to some powerful political figures and countries, as well as representing a very real danger to the church.

Berry’s plot is complex and twisted, but as anyone familiar with his books is well aware, Malone is capable of succeeding against all odds.

All-in-all, this is a typical Cotton Malone novel that I found sometimes confusing, but filled with action and surprises. I didn’t think it was Berry’s all-time best, but I enjoyed it.

Marie Beth Jones is a published author and freelance writer based in Angleton. Contact her at 979-849-5467 or 1mbjones@nnewwave.com.

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