Monday, April 27, 2015

Ivory Ghosts Blog Tour and Review

Ivory Ghosts: A Catherine Sohon Elephant Mystery by Caitlin O'Connell
Publication Date: April 7, 2015 by  Alibi
Pages: 240

In a blockbuster debut thriller brimming with majestic wildlife, village politics, and international intrigue, a chilling quadruple homicide raises the stakes in the battle to save Africa’s elephants.

Still grieving over the tragic death of her fiancé, American wildlife biologist Catherine Sohon leaves South Africa and drives to a remote outpost in northeast Namibia, where she plans to face off against the shadowy forces of corruption and relentless human greed in the fight against elephant poaching. Undercover as a census pilot tracking the local elephant population, she’ll really be collecting evidence on the ruthless ivory traffickers.
But before she even reaches her destination, Catherine stumbles onto a scene of horrifying carnage: three people shot dead in their car, and a fourth nearby—with his brain removed. The slaughter appears to be the handiwork of a Zambian smuggler known as “the witchdoctor,” a figure reviled by activists and poachers alike. Forced to play nice with local officials, Catherine finds herself drawn to the prickly but charismatic Jon Baggs, head of the Ministry of Conservation, whose blustery exterior belies his deep investment in the poaching wars.
Torn between her developing feelings and her unofficial investigation, she takes to the air, only to be grounded by a vicious turf war between competing factions of a black-market operation that reaches far beyond the borders of Africa. With the mortality rate—both human and animal—skyrocketing, Catherine races to intercept a valuable shipment. Now she’s flying blind, and a cunning killer is on the move.
“The scientist that Caitlin O’Connell is shines through her first work of fiction, a thriller set against the illegal ivory poaching trade in Africa. With descriptions and dialect so real you feel as if you might be turning pages while sitting deep in the bush, and a skillful narrative that teaches while it thrills, this novel is a win for any animal lover or reader with a conservationist’s heart.”—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leaving Time

From the very first page of this exciting novel I was completely caught up and interested in Catherine and her mission and in the local situation. Ivory Ghosts begins as Catherine is making her way to her new home for the next few months and she blows out a tire. Her day quickly goes downhill from there as she comes upon another car that appears to have hit a large animal and there are signs that the car had been filled with poachers. This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the book.

Catherine and the reader are never quite sure who can be trusted and who is hiding something. The mystery is troubling and the novel brings out the complexity of the issues at hand. There is the safety of the elephants, which is of course a priority for Catherine, but there is also the reality of life in close proximity to elephants and the dangers that go with it. Corruption is widespread and it isn't clear exactly who is involved and at what level. Then the additional problem of increasing tribalism in the area adds another troubling issue to the mix.

There is a budding romance within the novel, and unlike many mystery/thrillers, it actually adds to the plot and makes sense within the story. I thought their developing relationship worked really well and added to the overall tension.
Caitlin O'Connell's love for elephants and Africa is clear on every page of the book. The descriptions of the plant life and the animals is just amazing. I have never had an interest in going to Africa, but some of the descriptions of the terrain, the sounds of the wildlife in the book make the place sound amazing. . I will enthusiastically recommend Ivory Ghosts to friends and family. Also, I loved the title of the book, with the images it brought to my mind and the deeper truth to it. Ivory Ghosts has stuck with me since I finished reading it and the ghosts of the elephant families haunt my thoughts. I am excited at the prospect of reading more Catherine Sohon books soon.

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About the author
A world-renowned expert on elephants, Caitlin O’Connell holds a Ph.D. in ecology and is a faculty member at the Stanford University School of Medicine as well as director of life sciences for HNu Photonics. She is the author five nonfiction books about elephants, including the internationally acclaimed The Elephant’s Secret Sense, An Elephant’s Life, A Baby Elephant in the Wild, and Elephant Don, and co-author of the award-winning The Elephant Scientist. She is the co-founder and CEO of Utopia Scientific, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and science education, and the co-founder of Triple Helix Productions, a global media forum with a mandate to develop more accurate and entertaining science content for the media. When not in the field with elephants, O’Connell divides her time between San Diego, California, and Maui, Hawaii, with her husband, Tim Rodwell, and their dog, Frodo.

Caitlin O’Connell’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, April 6th: 100 Pages a Day
Wednesday, April 8th: Buried Under Books
Thursday, April 9th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Monday, April 13th: Book Nerd
Monday, April 13th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, April 15th: Bell, Book & Candle
Thursday, April 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, April 17th: Reading Reality
Monday, April 20th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, April 22nd: It’s a Mad Mad World
Thursday, April 23rd: Back Porchervations – Q&A
Friday, April 24th: Back Porchervations
Monday, April 27th: A Book Geek
Tuesday, April 28th: Read Love Blog
Wednesday, April 29th: Life Between Reads
Thursday, April 30th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Monday, May 4th: The Novel Life

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Inspector of the Dead Blog Tour and Review

02_Inspector of the Dead Cover
Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Hardcover; 342p 
ISBN: 9780316323932  
Genre: Historical Mystery

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 David Morrell?s MURDER AS A FINE ART was a publishing event. Acclaimed by critics, it made readers feel that they were actually on the fogbound streets of Victorian London. Now the harrowing journey continues in INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD.

Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his Confessions of an Opium-Eater,confronts London's harrowing streets to thwart the assassination of Queen Victoria. The year is 1855. The Crimean War is raging. The incompetence of British commanders causes the fall of the English government. The Empire teeters.

Amid this crisis comes opium-eater Thomas De Quincey, one of the most notorious and brilliant personalities of Victorian England. Along with his irrepressible daughter, Emily, and their Scotland Yard companions, Ryan and Becker, De Quincey finds himself confronted by an adversary who threatens the heart of the nation.

This killer targets members of the upper echelons of British society, leaving with each corpse the name of someone who previously attempted to kill Queen Victoria. The evidence indicates that the ultimate victim will be Victoria herself. As De Quincey and Emily race to protect the queen, they uncover long-buried secrets and the heartbreaking past of a man whose lust for revenge has destroyed his soul.

Brilliantly merging historical fact with fiction, Inspector of the Dead is based on actual attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria.

My Take:

I haven't read Murder as a Fine Art, the first of the Thomas De Quincey novels, but I had no problems with previous events which were handled extremely well.  I was so thoroughly caught up in the story that it was hard to pull myself into the present when I was forced to stop reading for meals, and such.

De Quincey is a fascinating character in the book and by all accounts was just as fascinating in real life. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into how his agile mind worked despite - or because of ? -  his extreme opium addiction. His daughter, Emily, was also an engaging character and I enjoyed reading the selections from her diary that told her own experiences within the story. Their family story is quite sad, but Emily is a devoted daughter and sticks by her father despite the hardships caused by his addiction.

The mystery of who is killing the top level British aristocrats and why is a complicated and exciting tale that seamlessly includes so much history and Victorian atmosphere that at times it is difficult to tell where the history ends and the fiction begins. I don't think that a fan of Victorian historical fiction could ask for anything more - from the poor Irish immigrants, the squalid Seven Dials rookery, Bedlam and the debtors prisons to the upper echelons of British society and Queen Victoria and Scotland Yard - this book contains everything needed to make a engrossing and satisfying tale.

Within the mystery, there is discussion of the science and methods of crime investigation, medical knowledge of the time, the study and theories of dreams and psychology and the effects of extreme poverty and violence on people. I enjoyed all the various topics discussed and illustrated throughout the novel.

I will be recommending wholeheartedly  Inspector of the Dead to my friends and family. I very much appreciated the Afterword in which the author givew much information about the history of the people, buildings, assassination plots and generally puts the novel in historical perspective for the reader. There is also a list of additional reading that I am anxious to add to my reading list. I plan to go back and read Murder as a Fine Art and will be anxiously awaiting a new installment in this wonderful series.

Praise for Inspector of the Dead

"Riveting! I literally thought I was in 1855 London. With this mesmerizing series, David Morrell doesn't just delve into the world of Victorian England-he delves into the heart of evil, pitting one man's opium-skewed brilliance against a society where appearances are everything, and the most vicious killers lurk closer than anyone thinks." -Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Crash & Burn and The Perfect Husband

What the Victorian Experts Say:
"Even better than Murder as a Fine Art. A truly atmospheric and dynamic thriller. I was fascinated by how Morrell seamlessly blended elements from Thomas De Quincey's life and work. The solution is a complete surprise." -Grevel Lindop, The Opium-Eater: A Life of Thomas De Quincey

 "The scope is remarkable. Florence Nightingale, the Crimean War, regicide, the railways, opium, the violence and despair of the London rookeries, medical and scientific innovations, arsenic in the food and clothing-all this makes the Victorian world vivid. The way Morrell depicts Thomas De Quincey places him in front of us, living and breathing. But his daughter Emily is in many ways the real star of the book." -Robert Morrison, The English Opium-Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey

 "I absolutely raced through it and couldn't bear to put it down. I particularly liked how the very horrible crimes are contrasted with the developing, fascinating relationship between Thomas De Quincey and his daughter, Emily, who come across as extremely real. It was altogether a pleasure." -Judith Flanders, The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Reveled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime

Buy the Book

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Amazon UK
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IndieBound Kobo

About the Author

David Morrell is an Edgar, Nero, Anthony, and Macavity nominee as well as a recipient of the prestigious career-achievement Thriller Master away from the International Thriller Writers. His numerous New York Times bestsellers include the classic espionage novel. The Brotherhood of the Rose, the basis for the only television mini-series to be broadcast after a Super Bowl. A former literature professor at the University of Iowa, Morrell has a PhD from Pennsylvania State University. His latest novel is INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD, a sequel to his highly acclaimed Victorian mystery/thriller, Murder as a Fine Art, which Publishers Weekly called "one of the top ten mystery/thrillers of 2013."

For more information visit David Morrell's website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Inspector of the Dead Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, March 24
Review at Unabridged Chick
Excerpt at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, March 25
Review at Back Porchervations
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Thursday, March 26
Review at JulzReads

Friday, March 27
Review & Excerpt at Jorie Loves a Story
Interview at JulzReads

Monday, March 30
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Spotlight at Tales of a Book Addict

Tuesday, March 31
Interview & Excerpt at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, April 1
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Guest Post at Mina's Bookshelf

Thursday, April 2
Review at Build a Bookshelf
Review & Giveaway at Mina's Bookshelf

Friday, April 3
Review at Peppermint, Ph.D.

Monday, April 6
Review & Giveaway at To Read, or Not to Read
Excerpt & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, April 7
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, April 8
Interview at Back Porchervations
Spotlight & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Thursday, April 9
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day - Stephanie's Book Reviews

Friday, April 10
Review at Layered Pages
Review, Excerpt & Giveaway at Drey's Library

Monday, April 13
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, April 14
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, April 15
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, April 16
Review at Editing Pen
Review at Luxury Reading
Review at The Maiden's Court

Friday, April 17
Guest Post & Giveaway at Editing Pen

Monday, April 20
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, April 21
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Books and Benches

Wednesday, April 22
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Thursday, April 23
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Friday, April 24
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Medium Dead Blog Tour and Review

Medium Dead by Paula Paul
Publication date: April 14, 2015 by Alibi
Source: digital ARC from Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:

Sure to delight readers of Jacqueline Winspear and Ellis Peters, Medium Dead features Queen Victoria herself—and she’s rumored to have slain a local psychic in Newton-upon-Sea. Now the task of clearing her name and catching the real killer falls to Dr. Alexandra Gladstone.

Under Victoria’s reign, women are barred from calling themselves physicians, but that hasn’t stopped Alexandra Gladstone. As the first female doctor in Newton-upon-Sea, she spends her days tending sick villagers in the practice she inherited from her father, with her loyal and sometimes overprotective dog, Zack, by her side.  

After the corpse of village spiritualist Alvina Elwold is discovered aboveground at a church boneyard, wild rumors circulate through the charming seaside village, including one implicating a certain regal guest lodging nearby. Tales of the dead Alvina hobnobbing with spirits and hexing her enemies are even more outlandish—but as a woman of science and reason, Alexandra has no doubt that a murderer made of flesh and blood is on the loose.

Finding out the truth means sorting through a deluge of ghostly visitors, royal sightings, and shifty suspects. At least her attentive and handsome friend Nicholas Forsyth, Lord Dunsford, has come to her aid. Alexandra will need all the help she can get, because she’s stumbled upon dangerous secrets—while provoking a deadly adversary who wants to keep them buried.

My Take:

Medium Dead is the fourth in the Alexandra Gladstone series, but it works well as a standalone book as well. I haven't read the other books and I had no problems because the author does a nice job handling any needed information from previous books.

I found Medium Dead to be a light, easy-to-read mystery that was fun and held my interest throughout the fairly short story.  There are lots of interesting characters including the medium mentioned in the title, various villagers and Alexandra's friends and a variety of shifty characters who may not be quite what they seem. I thought the setting was appropriate for a Victorian ghostly mystery with enough storms, fog and graveyards to keep any reader happy.

While the story is light and pretty fast-paced, it isn't particularly alarming or a thriller -- I'd definitely categorize this one as a cozy mystery. I did enjoy reading about daily life of the villagers and  Alexandra herself. She isn't a typical female for the time - being a doctor during the Victorian era was quite unusual for a woman.  Even though she can't call herself a physician, she still is able to practice medicine - and turns out to be a better doctor than some of the top male doctors of the time. 

Fortunately, the ghostly activity is pretty clearly man-made, but it was still fun trying to figure out who was behind the activity, how they did it and why. Medium Dead is one of those books that can easily be recommended to a wide variety of readers because it is so fun and enjoyable and easily read in a day or so.  I would also happily read more in the series. 

About the author

Award-winning novelist Paula Paul was born on her grandparents’ cotton farm near Shallowater, Texas, and graduated from a country high school near Maple, Texas. She earned a BA in journalism and has worked as a reporter for newspapers in both Texas and New Mexico. She’s been the recipient of state and national awards for her work as a journalist as well as a novelist. Her previous novels featuring Dr. Alexandra Gladstone, including Symptoms of Death, have appeared on bookstore and online bestseller lists. She is also the author of the Mystery by Design series, which she wrote as Paula Carter. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

To learn more about Paula, visit her WEBSITE.

 Paula Paul’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, April 13th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, April 13th: Melina’s Book Blog
Tuesday, April 14th: 100 Pages a Day
Tuesday, April 14th: FictionZeal
Wednesday, April 15th: Fictionophile
Thursday, April 16th: Psychotic State Reviews
Friday, April 17th: It’s a Mad Mad World
Monday, April 20th: Buried Under Books
Monday, April 20th: A Book Geek
Tuesday, April 21st: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, April 22nd: Reading Reality
Thursday, April 23rd: The Reader’s Hollow
Friday, April 24th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Monday, April 27th: Bibliophilia, Please
Monday, April 27th: Under a Gray Sky
Tuesday, April 28th: Bell, Book & Candle
Wednesday, April 29th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, April 30th: 2 Kids and Tired

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Last Night at the Blue AngelLast Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert
Paperback: 352 pages 
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 14, 2015) 
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review

Set against the turbulence of 1960s Chicago - a city in transformation-and its legendary jazz scene, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a lush and immensely heartfelt mother-daughter tale about a talented but troubled singer's relationship with her precocious ten-year-old daughter.

It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is teeming with the tensions of the day - segregation, sexual experimentation, the Cold War and Vietnam - but it is also home to some of the country's most influential jazz. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. But when her big break, the cover of Look magazine, finally arrives, it carries with it an enormous personal cost. Sensual and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet self-destructive woman whose charms tend to hurt those around her, and no one knows this better than her daughter, Sophia.

As the only child of a single mother growing up in an adult world, Sophia is wise beyond her years, a casualty of her mother's desperate struggle for fame and adoration. Unsettled by her home life, she harbors a terrible fear that her world could disappear at any moment, and compulsively maintains a list of everyday objects she might need to reinvent should nuclear catastrophe strike. Her only constant is the colorful and unconventional family that surrounds her and her mother, particularly the photographer, Jim, who is Sophia's best friend, surrogate father, and protector-but Jim is also deeply in love with Naomi.

Weaving between the perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, Last Night at the Blue Angel is a poignant and unforgettable story about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. Part stylish period piece, part heartbreaking family drama, it?s a novel rife with revelations, a vivid and propulsive page-turner-and the major debut of an extraordinary new writer.

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My Take:
From the opening of the Prologue of Last Night at the Blue Angel, to the last page, this book captured and held my interest. and Sophie, the young narrator, captured my heart. The other narrator, her mother, Naomi, captured my sympathy and helped me to understand her drive, but I still felt the most connection with Sophie. 

The novel begins with Sophie's narrative and she is a sweet, smart child who fiercely loves her mother and craves her attention more than anything. Jim is a loyal, devoted pseudo-father to Sophie  and is desperately in love with Naomi. Naomi seems standoff-ish and very wrapped up in herself and her desire for fame. Even though it does appear that Naomi isn't really there much for Sophie, they have cobbled together their own version of a family made up of Jim, Rita and Sister Idalia. They are a unique group -- I loved learning more about each of them through the two different narratives. I thought it was so cute when Sophie refers to Sister Eye and it eventually becomes clear that this is Sister Idalia. 

I enjoyed the descriptions of Chicago and Jim's dedication to photographing the old buildings before they either collapsed or were torn down. His and Sophie's adventures were a great way to describe the city during this turbulent era. I found it interesting to read about the other side of the club life and music scene during the period. 

I thought that Last Night at the Blue Angel was a beautifully written book with great characters that felt real and I felt drawn towards. The secondary characters were just as compelling as the main characters and I wanted to know so much about them. I love it when everyone you encounter in a book piques your interest. I felt an emotional connection to Sophie, Sister Idalia, Rita and especially Jim. Naomi causes complicated emotions and reactions - for the reader and for her friends in the book.  

Last Night at the Blue Angel is one of those books that will appeal to readers across a wide range of interests. While it is set in the 1950's and 1960's, it is still modern enough to not just appeal to historical fiction readers, and it deals with contemporary issues, families, segregation, gender, fame, among others. I definitely will be suggesting it to my friends.

About Rebecca RotertRebecca RotertRebecca Rotert received an M.A. in literature from Hollins College, where she was the recipient of the Academy of American Poets prize. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and other publications. She's also an experienced singer and songwriter, who has performed with several bands, and a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska. This is her first novel.

Find out more about Rebecca at her?website?and follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Shadow Ritual Excerpt and Review

Shadow Ritual by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne
Publication date: March 25, 2015 by Le French Book
Source: Publisher via Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc. for an honest review


An electrifying thriller about the rise of extremism. Two slayings—one in Rome and one in Jerusalem—rekindle an ancient rivalry between modern-day secret societies for knowledge lost at the fall of the Third Reich. Detective Antoine Marcas unwillingly teams up with the strong-willed Jade Zewinski to chase Neo-Nazi assassins across Europe. They must unravel an arcane Freemason mystery, sparked by information from newly revealed KGB files. Inspired from the true story of mysterious Freemason files thought to hold a terrible secret, stolen by the SS in 1940, recovered by the Red Army in 1945 and returned half a century later.

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Excerpt from Shadow Ritual



The bombings had redoubled at dawn, and the ground trembled. The mans razor slipped a second time. Blood dribbled down his stubbly cheek. He clenched his jaw, grabbed a damp towel, and dabbed the cut.

Designed to last a thousand years, the bunkers foundations were showing signs of weakness.

He looked in the cracked mirror above the sink and barely recognized his face. The last six months of combat had left their mark, including two scars across his forehead, souvenirs of a skirmish with the Red Army in Pomerania. He would celebrate his twenty-fifth birthday in a week, but the mirror reflected someone a good ten years older.

The officer slipped on a shirt and his black jacket and shot a half smile at the portrait of the Führer, a mandatory fixture in all the rooms of the Third Reich Chancellerys air-raid shelter. He put on his black helmet, adjusted it, and buttoned his collar, fingering the two silver runes shaped like Ss on the right.

His uniform had such power. When he wore it, he soaked up the fear and respect in the eyes of passersby. He reveled in the gazes that oozed submission. Even children too young to understand the meaning of his black uniform pulled away when he tried to be friendly. It reactivated some primitive fear. He liked that. Intensely. Without his beloved leaders national socialism, he would have been a nobody, just like the others, leading a mediocre life in an ambitionless society. But fate had catapulted him to the inner circle of the SS.

Now, however, the tide was turning. Judeo-Masonic forces were triumphing again. The Bolsheviks were scampering, ready to take over like a swarm of rats. They would spare nothing. Of course, he hadnt either. Hed left no prisoners on the Eastern Front.

Pity is all the weak can be proud of, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler liked to tell his subordinates. That same man had given hima Frenchmanthe Iron Cross for his acts of bravery.

Another tremor shook the concrete walls. Gray dust fell from the ceiling. That explosion was close, maybe just above the bunker in what remained of the chancellery gardens.

Obersturmbannführer François Le Guermand brushed the dust from his lapels and examined himself again. Berlin would fall. They had known this since June, when the Allies invaded Normandy. But what a year it had been. Aheroic and brutal dream, to borrow the words of José-Maria de Heredia, the Cuban-born French poet Le Guermand loved.

A dream for some and a nightmare for others.

It began after hed joined the SS Sturmbrigade Frankreich and then the Charlemagne Division, swearing allegiance to Adolf Hitler. This came two years after hed marched off with the Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism. Marshal Pétains spinelessness had disgusted him, and he had set his sights on the Waffen SS units that were taking foreign volunteers.

He had fought bravely, and one day a general invited him to dinner that changed his life. Anti-Christian comments filled the conversation. The guests praised old Nordic religious beliefs and championed racist doctrines. Le Guermand listened with fascination as they related the strange and cruel stories of the clever god Odin, the dragon slayer Siegfried, and mythic Thule, the ancestral homeland of supermen, the real masters of the human race.

Le Guermand was seated next to the generals liaison, a major from Munich who explained how SS officers with pure Germanic blood had received intensive historical and spiritual training. The Aryan race has waged battle with degenerate barbarians for centuries, he said.

Before, Le Guermand would have mocked the words as the wild imaginings of indoctrinated minds, but in the candlelight, the magical stories were a powerful venom, a burning drug that flowed into his blood, slowly reaching his brain and cutting it off from reason. Le Guermand was caught in the maelstrom of a titanic combat against the Stalinist hordes, and at that moment, he understood the real reason he had joined this final battle between Germany and the rest of the world. He grasped the meaning of his life.

On that winter solstice in 1944, in a meadow lit up by torches, he was initiated into the rites of the Black Order. As he faced a makeshift altar covered with a dark gray sheet embroidered with two moon-colored runes, he heard the deep voices of soldiers chanting all around him: Halgadom, Halgadom, Halgadom.”

Its an ancestral Germanic invocation that means sacred cathedral, the major told him. But its nothing like a Christian cathedral. Think of it as a mystical grail. The major laughed. In a Christian context, its like a celestial Jerusalem.

An hour later, the torches were extinguished. As darkness swallowed the men in ceremonial uniforms, Le Guermand emerged a transformed man. His existence would never be the same. What would it matter if he died? Death was nothing but a passage to a more glorious world. François Le Guermand had joined his fate with that of this community. It was cursed by the rest of humanity, but he would receive sublime teachings promising new life, even if Germany lost the war.

The Red Army continued to advance. Le Guermands division took a battering. Then, on a cold and wet morning in February 1945, when he was supposed to be leading a counterattack in East Prussia, Le Guermand received orders to report to the Führers headquarters in Berlin. There was no explanation.

He bid good-bye to his division, only to learn later that his fellow soldiers, exhausted and underequipped, had been decimated that very day by the Second Shock Armys T-34 tanks.

The Führer had saved his life.

On his way to Berlin, Le Guermand passed countless German refugees fleeing the Russians. The radio broadcast Dr. Goebbelss propaganda: Soviet barbarians were pillaging houses and raping women. It made no mention of the atrocities committed by the Reich when they had marched victoriously on Russia.

The lines of frightened runaways went on for miles.

How ironic. In June 1940, his family had pulled a cart along a road in Compiègne, France, fleeing the arriving Germans. Now he was a German soldier, and he was retreating. From the backseat of his SS car, he contemplated the dead German women and children lying on both sides of the road, some in an advanced stage of decomposition. Many had had their clothing and shoes stolen. This de- pressing spectacle was nothing compared with what he would find when he arrived in the capital of the dying Third Reich.

Past the northern suburb of Wedding, he gazed at the burned and crumbling buildings, the victims of incessant Allied bombings. He had known Berlin when it was so arrogant and proud to be the new Rome. Now he gawked at the masses of silent inhabitants trudging through the ruins.

Flags bearing swastikas hung over what remained of the rooftops. His car came to a stop at an intersection on Wilhelmstrasse to let a convoy of Panzer Tiger tanks and a detachment of foot soldiers pass. Le Guermand watched as a man spit at the troops. Before, such behavior would have led to an arrest and a beating. On this day, the man just went on his way.

A banderole remained intact on the side of an intact buildingan insurance companythat hadnt been destroyed. We will vanquish or we will die, its large gothic letters read.

Arriving at the chancellery guard post, he found the bodies of two men hanging from streetlights. They hadnt been as lucky as the man who had spit at the troops. The dead men were wearing placards: I betrayed my Führer.Probably deserters caught by the Gestapo and immediately executed, Le Guermand thought. Examples. No Germans could escape their destiny. The bodies, their faces nearly black from asphyxiation, swayed in the wind.

To his surprise, there was no officer to meet him at the bunker, but instead, an insignificant civilian. His thread- bare jacket bore the insignia of the Nazi Party. The man told him that he and the other officers of his rank would be assigned to a special detachment under the direct orders of Reichsleiter Martin Bormann. His mission would be explained in due time.

The man led him to a tiny room. Other officers, all detached from three SS divisionsWiking, Totenkopf, and Hohenstaufen—had received the same orders and were lodged in nearby rooms.

Two days after they arrived, Martin Bormann, secretary of the Nazi Party and one of the few dignitaries to still be in Adolf Hitlers good graces, called the Frenchman and his comrades together. With a cold, self-confident gaze on his bloated face, he looked at the fifteen men gathered in what remained of a chancellery meeting room. Then Hitlers dauphin spoke in a strangely shrill voice.

Gentlemen, the Russians will be here in a few months. It is possible that we will lose the war, even though the Führer still believes in victory and has put his faith in new weapons even more destructive than our long-range V-2 rockets.

Bormann let his eyes drift over the group before continuing his monologue.

We need to think about future generations and remain committed to final victory. Your superior officers chose you for your courage and loyalty to the Reich. I speak especially for our European friends from Sweden, Belgium, France, and Holland who have conducted themselves as true Germans. During the few weeks we have left, you will be trained to survive and perpetuate the work of Adolf Hitler. Our guide has decided to stay to the end, even if he must give his life, but you will leave in due time to ensure that his sacrifice is not in vain.

Le Guermand looked around. The other officers were murmuring and shifting in their chairs. Bormann continued.

Each of you will receive orders that are vital for our work to continue. You are not alone. Other groups such as yours are being formed throughout German territory. Your training will begin at eight tomorrow morning and will last for several weeks. Good luck to all of you.

During the two months that followed, they were taught to live an entirely clandestine life. François Le Guermand admired the organization that persevered, despite the impending apocalypse. He felt detached from his French roots, from that nation of whiners that had prostrated itself at the feet of Charles de Gaulle and the Americans.

Le Guermand was cloistered in underground rooms and went days without seeing sunlight. A rodents life. There was no rest between the lectures and coursework. Soldiers and civilians introduced him to a vast network that was especially active in South America, as well as Spain and Switzerland.

They were trained in covert bank transfers and identity management. Money didnt seem to be a concern. Each member of the group had a duty: to go to his assigned country and blend with the population under a new identity. Then waitready to act.

By mid-April, the Soviets were just six miles from Berlin. Three hundred French survivors of the Charlemagne Division were guarding the bunker. That was when the liaison officer from Munich arrived. Bormann deferred to the major, as though he were a superior officer. Le Guermand ate a quick lunch with the major, who called Hitler an evil madman and then held out a black card embossed with a white capital T.

This card marks your membership to an ancient Aryan secret society, the Thule-Gesellschaft, the major explained. It has existed since long before the birth of Nazism. You have been chosen for your courage and devotion. If you survive the war, other members of the Thule will contact you with new orders.

My Take:

Shadow Ritual begins with an intriguing prologue, a portion of which is posted above. And honestly, I was caught up in the book at the prologue. But then it is quickly followed by a murder and then the meeting of Inspector Marcas and Jade Zewinski. Their meeting sets the tone for the rest of the book. The two strong-willed, confident and very competent professionals don't exactly get along, but are forced together time and again.

I read the book quickly over a weekend. The story is fast-paced and exciting. Since the conspiracy concerns the Freemasons and all the various theories and realities pertaining to them, it is of course an interesting and exciting read.  The conflict between Marcas and Zewinski is based somewhat on personality, but also on personal experience and tragedy. They make a great team whether they want to or not.

I don't want to give away too many details because much of the fun in reading the book is discovering the secrets as the villains and their nefarious plans are revealed. I will say that I enjoyed the book from start to finish. I very much hope that the other books in the series will be translated into English. I can't help but want to read more in this series. If you enjoy fast-paced, esoteric conspiracy thrillers, Shadow Ritual might very well be the book for you. I think it might appeal to a pretty wide range of readers.

About the AUTHORS

Jacques Ravenne is a literary scholar who has also written a biography of the Marquis de Sade and edited his letters. He loves to explore the hidden side of major historical events. Eric Giacomettiwas an investigative reporter for a major French newspaper. He has covered a number of high-profile scandals and has done exhaustive research in the area of freemasonry.
Find out more about Giacometti & Ravenne.

Anne Trager has a passion for crime fiction that equals her love of France. After years working in translation, publishing and communications, she founded Le French Book.

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