The Camel Club’s final case

By Ande Jacobson

Hell’s Corner, released in 2010, is the fifth and final book in David Baldacci’s Camel Club series. As mentioned in a prior essay, the Camel Club is a ragtag team of eccentrics who are attuned to and intent on exposing and correcting our government’s missteps. John Carr, AKA Oliver Stone, leads the group and is a former government-trained assassin from a highly secret (and fictional) branch of the CIA.

At the outset of the story, Stone is pulled back into the government fold, though not as a Triple Six assassin since that division no longer exists. He has other skills that they desperately need, so the president makes him an offer he that cannot refuse. Stone has been living off the grid for the last thirty years or so, constantly looking over his shoulder because even his own government has been after him. After his recent retaliatory actions to remove his two biggest threats it actually has a valid reason to pursue and eliminate him. The president recognizes his value despite Stone’s sometimes rogue behavior, so he offers him the opportunity to work on a high stakes case. If successful, the president promises that he’ll allow Stone to live out the rest of his life in peace. Stone agrees and is due to embark on a grueling training course after which he’ll be put back in the field on a case he really isn’t expected to survive. Continue reading


A most ungraceful exit

By Ande Jacobson

A Fatal Grace is the second of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache stories. It was first released in Canada as Dead Cold in 2006. Although it takes several chapters before the primary murder of interest occurs, Armand Gamache ends up back in Three Pines again. For a small village outside of Montreal, Three Pines might rival Cabot Cove in Maine for the most murders per capita, and this is only one of the murders being investigated by the famed Chief Inspector this time. He has two investigations going on. The primary case occurs on Boxing Day in Three Pines and involves his full team. The secondary case is one involving the murder of a homeless woman in Montreal that occurred a few days earlier though most of his team is unaware of the Montreal murder. He keeps that case close to the vest as it is a recent one that he’s investigating on the side for a friend with the Montreal Metropolitan Police. Gamache is a Chief Inspector with the state police – the Sûreté du Quebec, and he and his wife (Reine-Marie) have a Boxing Day tradition of combing through the cold cases brought by Marc Brault of the city’s force while Brault does the same with some of Gamache’s more stubborn cases. Why such a recent murder would be a cold case intrigues Gamache. As for the trade, new sets of eyes could sometimes break the logjam. Continue reading

Everyone needs a very nice box

By Ande Jacobson

The Very Nice Box is a quirky, sensitive first novel by Eve Gleichman and Laura Blackett, released in July 2021. Gleichman and Blackett’s debut novel deftly takes on social stigmas, office peculiarities, loss, grief, relationships, and happiness wrapped up in an engaging story filled with humor and unexpected twists that keeps readers on the edge of their seats anxious to find out what happens next. The story centers on Ava Simon, an able engineer who leads a design team for STÄDA, a company in Brooklyn somewhat reminiscent of IKEA providing a wide range of heavily branded products meant for functionality above all else. These products are fashionable and cover almost every area of furnishing and function a person could need for their home, office, and personal care. Ava designs an essential furnishing that everyone needs – boxes. Her passion project is to design and build The Very Nice Box, something destined to become one of STÄDA’s signature products. Continue reading

Life is anything but still

By Ande Jacobson

Still Life is Louise Penny’s first Chief Inspector Gamache story from 2005. Armand Gamache is a Chief Inspector from the Sûreté du Québec in Montreal who gets called to investigate a suspicious death in a small village not too far away. This is both Penny’s first novel and the first book in her long series of beloved detective stories. While the mystery in this story unfolds in the fictional village of Three Pines, it has been hypothesized that the location is based on Penny’s hometown of Knowlton in Southern Québec. Still Life was first written in English and has since been translated into multiple languages. In the English version, Penny sprinkles bits of French into the description and the dialog on occasion given where the story takes place. Fortunately, a knowledge of French isn’t necessary to fully enjoy the book.

Penny draws vivid characters who delight readers with their quaint observations and local quirks and customs. Her stories are thought of as gentler crime novels with very little violence and no sex which makes them far different from most of the aggressive stories that are so pervasive these days. These stories are instead built through character studies and relationships as Penny focuses on the human and humane interactions. Continue reading

Justice in Divine

By Ande Jacobson

Divine Justice is the fourth book in David Baldacci’s Camel Club series. The Camel Club is a ragtag team of eccentrics who are attuned to and intent on exposing the missteps of our government from all sides. They are led by John Carr, AKA Oliver Stone, a former government-trained assassin from a highly secret (and fictional) branch of the CIA who’s been on the fringes of society since his ouster by the corrupt leadership that had his family executed when he wanted out. When he went on the run, he took the name Oliver Stone because he saw real conspiracies everywhere. The other charter members of the club are Reuben Rhodes, Caleb Shaw, and Milton Farb. Continue reading

The dangers of disinformation in a compelling novel

By Ande Jacobson

Teri Kanefield is many things. She’s a former appellate defense lawyer who helped those who couldn’t afford representation. She’s an educator who taught at the high school and college level. She’s an author who has published informative works of nonfiction as well as compelling novels. And most recently, she’s tirelessly working to educate the public in hopes of helping people understand the political and legal minefield that has been thrust upon us by the rising authoritarian threat. She’s paraphrased Max Weber in numerous blog posts and social media commentary regarding the three types of political authority. Those include:

  1. Traditional authority: Defined by long-held cultural patterns. These vary depending on the culture and can include religious or monarchical rulers.
  2. Charismatic authority: This is the foundation for a strongman or a dictator. This authority stems from one who captures the attention of the population, often through legitimate means, then often abuses that power.
  3. Rational-legal authority: This authority is based on a system of laws which is fundamental to a democracy.

Most recently, Kanefield has given her regular readers a gift. After researching and writing her upcoming book on disinformation, she wanted to do more. Seeing the damage that disinformation has done, and following the extraordinary saga that has taken the U.S. from being a world-leading democracy to the brink of an authoritarian takeover, she’s written a short novel that chronicles the path we’ve seen unfold over the last half century. She’s framed it within a fictional construct surrounding the confessions of a true believer who is faced with the horror that he helped unleash when it comes back to threaten his freedom and his life. To date, Kanefield released the story, entitled Memoirs and True Confessions of a Disinformation Warrior, in three lengthy posts on her blog, initially linked from the end of her 18 March 2023 entry about Trump’s imminent arrest. The pieces of the novel can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Continue reading

The end of the King and Maxwell series

By Ande Jacobson

King and Maxwell is the sixth and final book in David Baldacci’s King & Maxwell series, and it doesn’t disappoint. The last three books of the series, First Family, The Sixth Man, and King and Maxwell are closely coupled, each picking up where the last one leaves off. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are looking to get back to a more normal, less life-threatening routine when they come upon a teenager running through the woods with a gun in a vicious storm. The boy, Tyler Wingo, is frantic. He’s been informed that his father, Sam Wingo, was killed in combat in Afghanistan. The trouble is that Sam Wingo is very much alive, and he’s a hunted man though it takes a while to determine that this is the case. After some negotiation and being threatened by various government and government adjacent thugs, King, Maxwell, their client Tyler Wingo, his father Sam, and a couple of innocent bystanders are in grave danger. No matter the risks, they aren’t deterred from their quest to clear Sam’s name and get him and Tyler to safety. Continue reading

‘The Daughters of Kobani’ shows just what motivated women can do

By Ande Jacobson

In February 2021, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s groundbreaking book, The Daughters of Kobani, became available. This is an important book telling the story of the women of the Kurdish Militia, an all-female fighting force (the YPJ) that pushed back and took revenge on the men of ISIS to free Kobani and other Kurdish towns in northeastern Syria. They faced long odds and opposition from their families, the oppressive regime in their native Syria, and hostile neighboring nations. They showed that women are not only equal to men, they are a force to be taken seriously. Lemmon spent hundreds of hours on trips and interviews between 2017 and 2020. She spoke with a broad swath of militia members as well as with civilians just trying to survive in Syria and Iraq. She also talked with the American military advisors in country and with military and political functionaries in the U.S. about the challenges surrounding U.S. involvement. The U.S. was keenly aware of the dangers posed by ISIS to the region and to the world, so there was a vested interest in making this work. Continue reading

What happened to Edgar Roy?

By Ande Jacobson

David Baldacci’s fifth book in the King & Maxwell series came out in 2011. The story in The Sixth Man picks up where First Family left off. Sean King and Michelle Maxwell have again taken on more than they expected when they venture up to Maine to help out King’s old mentor on a case. A brilliant but troubled genius has been accused of mass murder. The man is Edgar Roy who theoretically worked for the IRS. In reality though, his job was far more complex than that. He was recruited to help the intelligence community in ways that are completely unimaginable. He was the only person in the country, and probably the world, who could do the job for which he was hired. He was part of something known as the E-Program, and he was the only E-Six ever discovered after a few E-Fives went down in flames. Continue reading

‘Lawyers Never Lie’ is a gripping legal comedy

By Ande Jacobson

Teri Kanefield is well-known in various circles as a writer, an appellate defense attorney, and an educator. Of late she’s been part of the building legal community on Twitter, patiently explaining various high profile legal matters rippling through public discourse. Before the heightened activity of legal Twitter, she was an award winning author writing across genres including nonfiction and fiction for both young readers and adults. Her nonfiction is carefully researched and expertly presented to inform and enthrall. Her fiction is gripping, often originating from a circumstance or event she knows well adhering to the old adage of writing what you know. Kanefield’s fiction also exemplifies something she holds close to heart – that fiction or literature in an ideal world is a creative way to get to the truth. This is the case in her engaging novel, Lawyers Never Lie. The story is largely autobiographical although the names have been changed, the ages have been shuffled, and the personalities have been modified to protect the innocent. The back cover starts with:

“A boy on the roof. A house in shambles. A new baby. A lawsuit.”

And ends with:

“A story of raising children, legal ethics, and fixing what is broken.”

Continue reading