Review: Black Widow by Mike Wells

 

Book 10 of Lust, Money & Murder

Title: Black Widow

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2017

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 4/5 stars

Note: “I was provided with an advanced reader copy of this book so I could give an honest review.

Warning: Lust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the first book and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing it, because this article contains spoilers from the first book!

In case I haven’t bored you enough or even annoyed you with my favourite espionage series, today I’m going to write a few paragraphs about Mike Wells’ most recent book in this series, Black Widow, where Elaine is forced to confront and relive her past.

Six months after the events from the ninth book, Elaine Brogan receives an unexpected visitor, whom she hasn’t seen in years.  Kathy, whose identity I won’t reveal, came to Elaine’s farmhouse to ask for help and to reveal a terrible truth about Patrick Brogan’s death. As if the reencounter with this strange yet familiar person wasn’t enough to shock Elaine, now she was to cope with her old wounds too. In order to find out the truth about the suspect aka Spyro Leandrou aka Kathy’s husband, Elaine needs to go to Santorini (Greece) and pose as a governess for Leandrou’s illegitimate son. Meanwhile, Luna goes to Pittsburgh to investigate Patrick’s case.

Kathy is a character I didn’t like that much because she had the gut to appear again in Elaine’s life out of the blue to seek help because she feared for her life. No wonder Elaine reacted the way she did in the first chapters because she didn’t trust Kathy even a bit.  However, things might begin to change in Greece, where the two will pretend to be employer and employee. Kathy is apparently refined and ladylike; instead, she’s insecure and she hasn’t quit her lifelong vices. The thing that annoyed me the most about her was the way she got rid of the Canadian governess. Okay, I understand that Kathy needed to make room to facilitate Elaine’s access into Spyro Leandrou’s house, but the way Kathy did it made me shake my head in disapproval, to say the least.

As for Spyro Leandrou, who is a criminal, according to what Kathy and Cattoretti said: the Greek tycoon seems to have a good side too: he shows his unconditional love to his son Alex, for whom he provided a thorough education both for his mind and body. On the other hand, if we look at Kathy and Elaine’s relationship, it will change a bit for the better; Elaine discovers qualities and abilities Kathy didn’t seem to have before.

This book was pretty steady-paced (with a few exceptions) because Elaine, Luna and Dimitry go on this new mission to gather information and to enable Elaine’s access to Leandrou’s criminal activity. The book has beautiful descriptive passages about Dubrovnik (Croatia), Oia and Fira (Santorini, Greece) which made my heart swell with joy because I’ve visited those places at least twice until now. The narrator makes fun of the unspoken rules of Greece, which seem very strange for Westerners, as well as Dimitry’s mentality, which I can understand to a certain point. Anyway, it was an interesting read and I’m really curious to see what happens next.

Review: Escape from Sudan by Mike Wells

Book 9 of Lust, Money & Murder

 

Title: Escape from Sudan

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2016

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 5/5 stars

Warning: Lust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the first book and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing it, because this article contains spoilers from the first book!

Blood diamonds, she thought. That’s exactly what these are. She felt almost as superstitious as the Africans now, as if the pink diamonds themselves had somehow caused all this hardship and death.” (Loc. 2421-2423).

As some of you already know, Lust, Money & Murder is one of my favourite series and, even though I’ve taken a break from it for a few months, here I am writing a review for the ninth book, which is entitled Escape from Sudan.

Elaine Brogan reveals her true identity to Stanley Ketchum, but the former-CIA agent doesn’t believe that the pretty blond is a U.S. Secret Service agent, but ‘some gold digger who was working with Raj to get her hands on the diamond mine”. (Loc. 456-457) Therefore, in order to push the mission forward, Elaine must convince Stan to cooperate and she hopes that he will not inform Raj about her (and Luna’s) unofficial investigation on Malik and his illegal smuggling. Will Ketchum’s conditions change the initial plan? How will Cattoretti react? Caught between Cattoretti’s plan and the investigation, Elaine Brogan must also cope with the frequent attacks from the Janjaweed warriors, who constantly follow them.

Meanwhile, back in Tangier, Nick LaGrange has problems of his own: from questioning his wife’s relationship with Cattoretti, finding out the truth about Isabella, to being held prisoner by some Ukrainian gangsters. What’s real and what isn’t? How will Nick manage to escape and what other risky missions will he have to go on?

This book was an emotional roller-coaster for me because some plans change; others almost fall apart due to dangerous situations, mistrust or new information, which took me by surprise as if they punched me in the face. This novel is one of the bloodiest of the entire series and almost everyone gets shot or hurt at least once. I was shocked, I was surprised, sometimes even disgusted, but I laughed when a character or a scene was funny and I rooted for Elaine and Nick to escape from the life-threatening situations they were into. You never know how things will end even when you are inches away from finishing the book.

Review: Blood Diamonds by Mike Wells

Book 8 of Lust, Money & Murder

 

Title: Blood Diamonds

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2016

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 4/5 stars

Note: I was provided with an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

WarningLust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the book series and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing the previous book, because this article contains spoilers from it!

Towards the end of Book 7, Elaine Brogan is obliged to join forces with Giorgio Cattoretti, in order to bring Raj Malik down as a revenge for what Malik did to her and Nick. According to Cattoretti, Raj’s wealth is based on the profit he makes from smuggling diamonds from a secret cave in a war zone from central Africa. Though Elaine thinks this mission is very risky, she wants to bust Raj for everything he has done, while the Italian mastermind is most of all interested in the rare pink diamonds themselves. For this mission, Elaine has to track down Stanley Ketchum, the ex-CIA agent who supplies Raj Malik with the precious diamonds and to use her charms to find out the exact location of the mine and to give the coordinates to Cattoretti.

Meanwhile, Nick, who escaped from the black site with the apparently mute nurse, Alisha, discovers that she is actually Isabella, the woman who blew up one of his undercover missions from the past that might have killed him. Though Nick is disgusted with what Isabella did to him a few years ago, he wants to know if she was linked in any way to the attack from the black site and to those who hold Elaine hostage. Though the reencounter with Isabella stirs some mixed feelings in Nick, he is equally worried about what had happened to Elaine and even insecure at the thought of her being again with Cattoretti. Even if Isabella’s presence annoys Nick, he reluctantly accepts her offer to help him look for Elaine, in exchange for a service he has to return.

Elaine’s journey through Northern and Central Africa is remarkably built and written through the way Mr Wells depicts and outlines the local cultures of Morocco, Chad and Sudan, the issue of poverty, war and extremism, international aid and dangerous encounters with wild animals. Though changing her identity is a piece of cake for Elaine, I think that here she plays her best role pretending to be a Texas trophy wife with the purpose of seducing Stan and hoping she will have the opportunity to see the diamond mine up close.

Will she get what Cattoretti wants without making Stanley too interested in her? I’ll let you find out for yourselves.

Review: Off the Grid by Mike Wells

Book 7 of Lust, Money & Murder

 

Title: Off the Grid

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2016

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Note: I was provided with an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Warning: Lust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the book series and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing the previous book because this article contains spoilers from it

In the beginning of the seventh book, Elaine Brogan and Nick LaGrange drive to the U.S. Embassy in Paris, where they are arrested on the spot for letting Cattoretti go. Ouch! It looks like Raj Malik found out somehow what the two secret agents did and he decided that it would be better to put them in prison and interrogate them whenever he likes. There, we enter the abominable hell Elaine lives in; terrifying thoughts cross her mind that she will not see Nick or her children again, she endures the humiliation of staying into a windowless, stinky cell and she undergoes various methods of torture (such as loud metal music, sleep deprivation, starvation) which gradually affect her mind and senses. Unlike his wife, Nick copes a little better with this subhuman treatment, because he worked as a professional extractor if you still remember from book 6. But how can he escape without his equipment? Did Elaine and Nick reach a dead end? Will anyone help them get out of this obscure place? Read the book and you will find out.

A secondary plotline stretches in front of our eyes and we read about Luna Faye’s story: her mixed-race origins, the traumas caused by the kids at school who bullied her and made fun of her size and looks, the reasons why she became interested in Martial Arts and in a career as an FBI agent. For me, it is fascinating how mature Luna was in her teen years and what a strong sense of justice she had at that time in her life. Becoming an FBI agent, she is sent to investigate the case of a famous serial killer that inspired her to enter the field of forensics. In this part of the book, you will also understand why Luna is so afraid of flying and how she managed to stop the serial killer and his accomplice from getting away.

Elaine and Nick’s imprisonment and some events that take place in the second part of the book were a bit scary, thought-provoking, but they made me read on. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about Luna’ story. It was a little too long for my taste, as well as Dimitry’s mission to follow Raj everywhere he goes. I am a devoted fan of this series, but I had some mixed feelings while reading Off the Grid and I’m not so sure if I still want to continue reading it. The premise for the eighth book is pretty tempting, but what if the digressions or secondary plots bore me like it happened in this case?

I guess I’ll have enough time to answer this question until the next book comes out. I’m not a big fan of book series and I’m pretty surprised that I came so far with Lust, Money & Murder, which means a lot, but for my curiosity to be fully satisfied, the eighth book needs to be more dynamic (especially the first half of it) and maybe as engaging as On Russian Soil, for example. However, this is my personal and honest opinion and suggestion. I’m not scolding Mr Wells, but if nowadays we have the privilege to connect with the authors of our favourite books, why we shouldn’t analyse their works critically, for the benefits of both writers and readers? I hope that my thoughts about this book will not spoil your excitement about it, but a reviewer’s purpose is to notice both the highs and lows of a book. Until next time!

Review: The Extraction by Mike Wells

Book 6 of Lust, Money & Murder

 

Title: The Extraction

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2015

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 4/5 stars

WarningLust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the book series and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing the previous book because this article contains spoilers from it!

I just can’t believe how addicted I am to this series. The cliff-hanger from the previous book was so well done and so intriguing that I couldn’t stop thinking about what was going to happen to Elaine Brogan and how she would overcome a certain life-threatening situation.

In the beginning of the sixth book, Raj Malik receives Elaine’s message and then the “head of the U.S. Secret Service operations in Europe” (Loc. 27) calls Leon Gilmour, a professional extractor, who rescues American assets from neutral or hostile countries. He must extract a young American agent who is suffering from hypothermia and wolf bites. It also seems that she is held hostage by an insurgent and Leon must deal with him too. Afterwards, he must destroy any evidence of struggle or gunshots before the police find them.

Some important events and secrets from Leon’s past are uncovered, though the hint given by the narrator in one of the first chapters will definitely make the readers of the previous books recognise him immediately. However, I will not reveal the name of the character. I can only add that life can sometimes be very ironic.

In this book, we can see how twisted Cattoretti’s mind is (more than ever if you ask me), what plans he has got regarding Elaine, her family and her saviour. How evil can a criminal mastermind get? However, after returning home, Elaine hatches a plan to find Cattoretti’s hideout, because he has kidnapped Tony, but also to find out where Lexy and Cattoretti’s son was taken without the mother’s consent.

The book is full of amazing elements: split missions through which the agents find more information about Cattorretti and his accomplices, epic fights in unexpected places, adrenaline, suspense, but also a bit of humour every now and then. However, the story is not over yet because we have to explore the seventh book.

 

Review: On Russian Soil by Mike Wells

Book 5 of Lust, Money & Murder

The Undercover Hunt For An International Criminal

 

Title: On Russian Soil

Subtitle: The Undercover Hunt For An International Criminal

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 5/5 stars

WarningLust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the book series and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing the previous book because this article contains spoilers from it!

After mastermind Georgio Cattoretti succeeds in stealing the entire collection of Picasso paintings from Hermitage Museum, the Russian Government surprisingly asks the United States “to send someone from the FBI Art Crime Team over to help them on the case” (Loc. 4974, Book 4). And who is the most suitable person to go on an undercover mission to St. Petersburg, to catch the international criminal? Elaine Brogan, of course.

However, her biggest challenges are: she has to pose as an FBI Art Crime detective, then she must catch Cattoretti before the Russian police does and she also needs to figure out a plan “to lure him out of Russia (…) or trick him in crossing the border into Latvia or Lithuania or Estonia” (Loc. 43) from where he can be extradited to the U.S. authorities and judged for his crimes. Elaine is not thrilled about her mission because of her lack of knowledge in art crime and also for the way Cattoretti treated her in the past, including his attempt to kill her. But in the end, she is left with no other choice but to obey the orders of her superior. How will she accomplish her complex assignment with all the risks it implies? And another important aspect is this: how will she complete her undercover mission without raising suspicions from Russian art crime expert, Inspector Sergei Amperov and his team?

I won’t actually give you too many details because this book is very well-built and the interesting journey is more enjoyable when you don’t know what to expect from this part of the series. The narration resembles a mystery book, though the reader knows from the start who committed the art heist. The deductions regarding the heist, the criminal’s intentions, the identity of the accomplices who helped him and the plan to catch the Italian mastermind and to bring back the priceless paintings safe and sound are the main parts of the story. I think that this particular book resembles a modern Sherlock investigation with high-tech surveillance gadgets, while the action is placed on Russian soil mixed with local culture and mentality. I also love the way the author describes the gloomy winter weather and the majestic historic buildings of St. Petersburg, not to mention the lavish Hermitages Museum itself.

 

This is all I have to say about On Russian Soil. Until next time!

Review: Cattoretti’s Return by Mike Wells

Book 4: of Lust, Money & Murder

An Unstoppable Villain’s Thirst for Revenge

 

Title: Cattoretti’s Return

Subtitle: An Unstoppable Villain’s Thirst for Revenge

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 4/5 stars

 WarningLust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the book series and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing the previous book because this article contains spoilers from it!

At the end of the third book, it seemed that Georgio Cattoretti met his match and Karma gave him what he deserved. However, in the fourth book, we find out that he is a little disabled, due to the fight he had with Elaine Brogan, but he is overall alive and kicking. Though barely surviving the fall, the waves and his injuries, Cattoretti is determined to hide from the local police, Interpol and the U.S. Secret Service that were looking for him. The memories and traumas caused by the time he was imprisoned in the U.S. made him vow to himself that he would rather commit suicide than spend another day behind bars. With the way the narration about Cattoretti’s survival and pitiful condition is told, it almost makes you sorry for him and his ingenuity reminds me of Robinson Crusoe.

But “the cat always lands on his feet” (Loc. 6074), as Cattoretti always said to himself. He manages to flee from Italy without being caught by the police and settles in Cyprus, where he lives peacefully for a while under a false identity. However, he is afraid that the Russian Mafia — let’s say… an old acquaintance who laundered his counterfeit money — was probably following him. The head of the organisation could spill the beans and Cattoretti’s contract killings would surface. Because he doesn’t want to be caught and he hopes to seek protection, the Italian criminal goes to Moscow to talk to Yuri Zubov. However, things are not that smooth and his life may be at stake…

As you already noticed, the main events in this book revolve around Georgio Cattoretti, his survival story, his plans to find a hideout and to make a comeback in the criminal world. However, the narration also shows the Italian criminal’s cynical relationship with his young submissive housekeeper and accomplice, Lexy. They travel to a few European countries and to Russia, where they have some interesting adventures, such as those from Amsterdam.

Personally, I truly enjoyed the information provided by the author about art and about the places visited by the characters. This all makes one feel the pulse of that certain city. The Italian criminal loves art, but inspiration strikes him in a bad way. He plans to make an immense art heist by stealing Pablo Picasso’s paintings from Hermitage Museum, but let’s not forget that he also wants to take revenge on Elaine Brogan. How will Georgio Cattoretti overcome all the obstacles? Will he achieve his goals? Read and you will find out! Until next time, don’t hesitate to pick a good book!

 

Review: Murder by Mike Wells

Book 3 of Lust, Money & Murder

 A Female Secret Agent Takes on An International Criminal

 

Title: Murder

Subtitle: A Female Secret Agent Takes on an International Criminal

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 4/5 stars

WarningLust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the book series and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing the previous book because this article contains spoilers from it!

After Elaine Brogan was abducted by Georgio Cattoretti’s men, she has been taken to Milan, where the Italian criminal made his wealth by counterfeiting US dollars through a stolen KBA Giori intaglio printing press, but also through manufacturing knockoff designer clothes, shoes and jewellery. Tempted by the wealth, Cattoretti’s charm and the sweet taste of revenge, Elaine accepts to help Cattoretti in perfecting the fake dollar bills. Did she have anything to lose? Lassiter used her for his dirty business with the Russian Mafia and Nick was probably arrested for something he was or wasn’t guilty of.

 But now let’s see what happens in the third book of this series. After returning with Elaine from the opera, Cattoretti has the surprise of his life because Gene Lassiter paid him an unexpected visit and stole the money Cattoretti planned to give Elaine after she finished the job he gave her. However, Lassiter hastily left something in the Italian criminal’s house — it’s an important item that will be used against the old man.

In this book, we learn many things about Georgio Cattoretti, such as what and who influenced him to become a criminal, but we can also catch a glimpse of how he thinks, whom he trusts, what happens to those who betray him and how he achieves his goals. He is a true villain who has plenty of reasons to behave the way he does.

This book contains thrilling scenes such as revengeful and cold-blooded murders, suspense, a bit of lust, a surprising LGBT twist and other types of twists that make you question the initial scenario that you pictured in your mind. Therefore, I suggest you read this wonderful series if you like spy novels, fast-paced narration and twists that will blow your mind. Enjoy!

 

Review: Money by Mike Wells

Book 2 of Lust, Money & Murder

A Female Secret Agent Takes on an International Criminal

 

Title: Money

Subtitle: A Female Secret Agent Takes on an International Criminal

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 5/5 stars

 

WarningLust Money & Murder is a book series where every book is the continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the first book and you are interested in doing so, please return to my review after finishing it, because this article contains spoilers from the first book.

The previous time we encountered Elaine Brogan, she was in big trouble, because she found out from Gene Lassiter that her boss and love interest (Nick LaGrange) was also involved in counterfeiting money. To be more precise, he took bribes from criminals in order to hide the wrongdoings from the Secret Service. Therefore, the Interpol was looking for him. The unexpected news struck both Elaine’s heart because she loved him and didn’t want him to get hurt, but also her mind because she “had falsified her DOPS to cover Nick’s tracks”.

Accompanied by her former trainer from the Secret Service Academy, Gene Lassiter, Elaine is going to the Treasury Department in Washington, where she will be given the painstaking task of identifying the imperfections in the fake US dollar banknotes sent to the Treasury, in order to create an updated verification software that will detect the counterfeit money. Afterwards, the information will be sent worldwide, in order to catch the criminal and to detect the KBA Giori intaglio printing press they used to counterfeit money. They were looking for a particular criminal who produced fake money, of which hundreds of US dollars have passed undetected by the verifier from San Remo casino. Another interesting fact is that the Italian hooker, who exchanged the counterfeit money, went missing. But this disappearance will probably be solved in another book of this series.

Due to his health problems (or so it seems), Lassiter cannot travel to Moscow to implement the verification software there, so Elaine unwillingly volunteers to go in his place. Hm, will it be that easy to accomplish her mission? What dangers will she encounter in the Russian capital and beyond and who wants to harm her? Is there anyone she can truly trust? Things will get pretty tangled for the secret agent and the brilliant way Mr Wells built the plot makes the reader scratch one’s head wondering if the truth will ever surface from all the lies and if Elaine will be able to stay true to her principles.

I have to tell you that this book is amazing. It holds many unexpected twists that make you say, at least a couple of times “Huh?” while reading it and the Muscovite adventures make your adrenaline level rise. I personally thought that I was mentally watching an action film, but it’s better than any blockbuster. Maybe the author should consider turning this series into films. It really has the potential for it. If I couldn’t fully commit to the first book, this one was really addictive and I cannot wait to read the third book of Mr Wells’ series.

Review: Lust by Mike Wells

Book 1 of Lust, Money & Murder 

A Female Secret Agent Takes on an International Criminal

Note: Lust, as well as all of Mike Wells’ first instalments in his series, is a freebie!

 

Title: Lust

Subtitle: A Female Secret Agent Takes on an International Criminal

Author: Mike Wells

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Espionage

Year of Publication: 2014

Self-Published

Series: Lust, Money & Murder

Rating: 4/5 stars

As well as in Devika Fernando’s case, I received the link to Mike Wells’ first book of Lust, Money & Murder series on Twitter, from the bestselling American writer himself. So today I’m going to leave aside my dear Classics and Romance novels and I’m going to stir your curiosity with Mike Wells’ crime novel.

As a child, Elaine Brogan had a special bond with her father and she was detail-oriented, a gift that will help her later in life. When Elaine was sixteen, she became a model, but, after spending a huge amount of money for her humble condition, she realised that everything the agency promised her was just a scam. The sum of money she received back was actually counterfeit.  Unfortunately, her father paid for his daughter’s naivety. He was wrongly accused of  “a Class C felony, punishable by up to 12 years in prison” and he was also accused of theft because “her father had been robbing construction sites to put her through Bromley” – a better school for Elaine. Patrick’s sacrifice for his daughter’s future and the fact that he didn’t want to drag her with him into jail really made me cry and think of my dad, who would have probably done the same for me.

Elaine’s life drastically changes after her father commits suicide in prison. She seeks revenge against Ronald Eskew, the man who gave her the counterfeit money and joins the Secret Service. Elaine goes through many tough tests which make her a cold, calculated, independent woman, aware that her beauty that can be used as a tool. Isn’t she fit to become a secret agent? She is harshly trained to react fast to unexpected situations such as terrorist attacks and threats against the President of the USA.

Overall, this book was interesting and different from what I usually read. I can’t say I was totally into it, I enjoyed the prologue and Elaine’s story until her father’s death. The college period and the training part made me lose interest a bit until the secret agent was sent to Bulgaria, where her missions caught my attention again. However, the jaw-dropping twists towards the end tempt me to buy the whole series. I bet there are many people like me, who would like to learn more about Elaine’s journey. Until the next review, find a little time to read a great book, old or new.