Category Archives: Thriller

THE HIDDEN MAN by David Ellis

On October 20, 1925, U.S. journalist and humorist Art Buchwald was born. Okay, I’m a day early mentioning a celebrity writer’s birthday, but tomorrow is also my grandson’s Michael’s birthday–so why not?

the Hidden ManI recently read a thriller called THE HIDDEN MAN, written by David Ellis and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. What makes this book so intriguing and noteworthy is not only the vivid writing, compelling characters, and strong story line, but also the author himself. Ellis is not only a writer, but he was the lead prosecutor in the trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. 

Ellis uses his first-hand knowledge of the criminal defense system to write THE HIDDEN MAN, a thoughtful and surprising thriller that ponders the larger questions of fate, loyalty, redemption and having the courage to do the right thing, in spite of the risks and regardless of the consequences.  

The main character is Midwesterner Jason Kolarich, who rises from humble beginnings to become a star in a high-powered criminal defense firm. Although Jason has escaped his neighborhood and unfortunate family situation, he has never forgotten his roots. After his wife and daughter die in a freak car accident while Jason is working late, he blames himself and walks away from his celebrity for a simpler life. While trying to cope with his unimaginable grief, he is hired by a mysterious “Mr. Smith” to defend a childhood friend from a murder charge. In doing so, Jason must relive a tragic incident that has haunted him for decades.

In THE HIDDEN MAN, David Ellis has created a likeable hero in Jason Kolarich, an everyday man who has scraped his way to the top through hard work and determination, yet still remains true to his values. Donna Volkenannt


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Filed under Fiction, Legal Thriller, Thriller

The Last Ember by Daniel Levin

On this date in 1902, poet and editor Ogden Nash was born.

It’s been over two weeks since my last review, but if you’re looking for a page-turner with an intriguing premise, I believe this book is worth the wait.

lastemberThe Last Ember by Daniel Levin is an exciting biblical thriller that will keep you reading till the wee hours of the night. Levin’s debut novel combines elements of history, mystery, conspiricies, politics, religion, and archaelogy into an intelligent and engrossing story. 

Jonathan Marcus, the main character, is a fallen-from grace antiquities scholar skilled in Latin, Greek, and archaelogy, now  practicing law in New York.  After Jonathan is dispatched to Rome to represent his firm in a high-profile case involving the authenticity of an ancient stone map, he is pitted against with Dr. Emili Travia, a passionate preservationist and a woman from his past.

 While Jonathan is in Rome, an Italian antiquities squad discovers a woman’s perserved corpse. The corpse bears a clue about a biblical mystery that leads to the discovery about a sacred object. The clue, coupled with a hidden message in the ancient stone map, propels Jonathan and Emili to join forces on a quest that takes them from the underground caverns beneath the streets of Rome to the holiest shrines in Jerusalem.

Levin’s background and education undoubtedly qualify him to write this novel. He does a fine job translating the foreign language passages so the reader isn’t distracted from the story. He writes with elegance and passion about emotionally charged topics, but at the center of it all is a remarkable tale. 

A longer version of my review of The Last Ember can be found on You can also read New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry’s fascinating interview of Daniel Levin on  Donna Volkenannt

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Filed under Biblical Thriller, Fiction, Thriller, Uncategorized

STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE, a thriller by Jon Land

June 8 – Happy Birthday, Sara Paretsky, author and creator of the award-winning V I Warshawski detective novels. Paretsky was born on this date in 1947.

Oh, and on this date in 1948, a not-famous-except-to-her-family-and-friends writer was born to James and Katherine Duly in St. Louis, Missouri — that would be yours truly. Happy birthday to me!

strongenoughThe novel I’ve chosen for this week’s discussion is STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE by Jon Land.

Reading well written thrillers is one of my guilty pleasures and favorite escapes. I love getting swept away by serpentine plots and skillfully formed characters.  Last year I was introduced to Jon Land’s writing when I read and reviewed THE SEVEN SINS: THE TYRANT ASCENDING. Since then I’ve come to enjoy Land’s writing style.

The central characters in STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE, Land’s latest suspense novel, are Caitlin Strong, a damaged Texas Ranger seeking redemption, and  Cort Wesley Masters, an outlaw exonerated of the murder conviction of Caitlin’s partner, who is seeking revenge. Another notable and intriguing character is an assassin ironically named Guillermo Paz.

The story takes place in border towns in Texas, board rooms in Washington, D.C, marketplaces in Bahrain, slums in Venezuela and crime-plagued cities in Mexico. Beyond the fast-paced action and complex characters, the novel presents a message of mercy, understanding and redemption.

What I really like about Land’s novels is the way he subtly nudges the reader to ponder larger questions about human behavior. His latest novel broaches free will and the influence of parents, especially fathers, on shaping the lives of their children. 

STRONG ENOUGH TO DIE is an inventive thriller with memorable characters, surprising plot twists and fast-paced action, but it also gets you think while enjoying the ride.  Donna Volkenannt


Filed under Fiction, Thriller, Uncategorized