Casey Sheehan - A Palm Sunday Someone You Should Know

This is an annual repost honoring Casey Sheehan who gave his life in a fight to save his brothers...

Casey Sheehan grew up in a devout Catholic home.  He served as an altar boy and then as a key member of his church's youth group for years.

When he was old enough, Casey joined the Boy Scouts, becoming the very second Eagle Scout out of his troop.

He enlisted in the Army when he was twenty years old.  He decided to be a mechanic.  He would undergo Combat Lifesaver training - a class on how to give IVs and treat trauma only second in intense learning to combat medic training.  He was also certified to assist with giving communion to soldiers while in the field.

Specialist Sheehan re-enlisted in the Army in 2004 knowing full well that he could be sent into a combat zone.

Casey Sheehan was a Humvee mechanic with the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment.

On April 3rd, 2004, forces loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al'Sadr stormed police stations and government offices in Sadr City (a city of over 2 million).  They knew the Americans would come, and they wanted a fight.  Muqtada Sadr was working them up into a religious frenzy.  And he had his thugs murder anyone who he thought might stand in his way - even other Shi'ite clerics.  His forces were known as the Mahdi Army.

American forces quickly surrounded Muqtada al'Sadr's quarters.

On April 4th, 2004, al'Sadr's Mahdi forces blocked roadways and bridges with burning tires, vehicles and trash.  Visibility was less than 300 meters anywhere in the city.  They began to attack American vehicles on patrol throughout Sadr City - some were protecting Shia worshipers (Holy Arbayeen) while others were escorting city government vehicles.

A battle raged across Sadr City.  Insurgents assaulted American troops while looters and mobs formed and stormed through the streets.  Word spread quickly across the American FOBs that there was trouble.

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment were ambushed with RPGs and pinned down and dying.  While fighting off an attack himself, the Commander of the 2/5th, LTC Volesky, called for help.  A Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was formed of volunteers - their mission was to go out and rescue the American troops.

Casey Sheehan's Sergeant asked for volunteers.  Sheehan had just returned from Mass.  After Sheehan volunteered once, the Sergeant asked Sheehan again if he wanted to go on the mission.  According to many reports (and according to his own mother), Casey responded, "Where my Chief goes, I go."

The QRF was launched.  Not long after entering the Mahdi area, the QRF was channeled onto a dead-end street where the roofs were lined with snipers, RPGs, and even some militia throwing burning tires onto the vehicles.  The Mahdi blocked the exit and let loose with everything they had.

Sheehan's vehicle was hit with multiple RPGs and automatic-weapons fire.

Specialist Casey Sheehan and Corporal Forest J. Jostes were killed.

A second QRF was formed - all volunteers - to go rescue the first.  Specialist Ahmed Cason was hit in the second QRF - but kept fighting until he bled to death.

Seven men died with Casey Sheehan on Sunday, April 4th, 2004. 

They were Spc. Robert R. Arsiaga, Spc. Ahmed Cason, Sgt. Yihjyh L. "Eddie" Chen, Spc. Stephen D. Hiller, Spc. Israel Garza, Cpl. Forest J. Jostes, and Sgt. Michael W. Mitchell.

It was Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday commemorates the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem.  Back then, the palm frond was a symbol of victory - laid beneath the feet of those of the highest honor and triumph.  Some believe it was this honor fit for a king that forced Jesus's enemies to act and crucify him.

In recognition of Casey, the Catholic Chapel at Fort Hood, Texas (where Sheehan was stationed) named the Knights of Columbus chapter the "Casey Austin Sheehan Council".

Casey also received the Bronze Star for his Valor that day.

Palm fronds for the most honored.

[Click here for the Someone You Should Know index.]


Book Review: The Forgotten Girls

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen is an action driven story. As with his other books, readers should be aware that this author does not shy away from ghastly issues, fictionalizing them for even more suspense. It is apparent that Laukkanen’s go to subject is the mistreatment of women.

The author noted, “I always find it fascinating to write stories about the alpha male, some who are angry men that feel women owe them something. This anger can turn to violence. But my next book is something completely different. It will be a high seas adventure story. I had a crisis of confidence after I finished this book so I decided to work on other plot lines. Since I paid for my college education by working on fishing boats I decided to use that experience to write a ship story. It is based on the true facts of salvaging ships, and the tugboat teams attempting to get a percentage of the value of the merchandise saved. I am also working on for fun a fictionalized version of my dog Lucy who looks like a lab/pit bull mix. In the story she is a rescue dog who is placed with a former Marine that has PTSD. But I also want to make it clear I am definitely not done with the characters Stevens and Windermere.”

He also told how the idea for this story came to him, “In the Vancouver neighborhood I live in there was this serial killer that preyed on women until 2006. He killed as many as 49 over the course of two decades. The local police were not very sympathetic and did nothing for about twenty years. In walking my dog Lucy we pass a memorial stone for these women and I was inspired to write this story. Since I am really into trains I added that aspect to the plot. This is how I spent quality time with my dad, walking by the trains. I knew a lot of people who tried to jump on trains and lost limbs, so I took it one step farther and had a killer stalking these train surfers.”

In this book readers learn, “you don’t ever surf the trains on the Highline.” Rumor has it that a ghost rider preys on women who will not be missed. Native American girls, prostitutes, runaways, and those forgotten have been going missing on the High Line cross country train for years. Yet, the local police did nothing, many times ignoring the victims. After Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere of the joint FBI-BCA violent crime force stumble upon the case, they discover a string of murders on the High Line, all of them young women drifters whom no one would notice. They soon find that it is a serial killer, a ghost that seems to disappear into thin air leaving no clues behind, until his big mistake when one victim lives.

Readers should see this book as a two-parter. The first is a “who done it,” while the second piece is the chase. Stevens and Windermere investigate each clue, only to be frustrated that the murderer seems to be one step ahead of them. While on the trail of the killer they also realize that they must find a young girl, Mila, out to avenge the death of her best friend, Ash, one of the victims.

What adds to the intensity of the plot is the weather and forbidden geography. Anyone reading this will feel the cold and isolation. The dead of winter with freezing temperatures and multiple blizzards in the vast wilderness provide obstacles for the protagonists. They are trapped by circumstances that limit them, while the killer chooses another victim.

Laukkanen does see winter as a character. “I started to do a lot of hiking since I live quite close to Montana and Idaho. I am taken by the remoteness. During a period of winter Vancouver was completely cut off because every highway was closed due to snow. I thought how the terrible weather and unforgiving geography would make the plot even more intense.”

The Forgotten Girls is extremely suspenseful. Having multiple narrators adds to the tension as chapters alternate between the heroes and villain’s point of view. Readers will take a ride on these trains as they feel they are also homeless, traveling in the vast territory without any support. The story is fast-paced and action 41OgLshvgvL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review After The Dark

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

After The Dark by Cynthia Eden is a psychological thriller intermingled with some romance. This is the first book of the “Killer Instinct” series. The premise of these novels is very unique in that they involve someone in law enforcement knowing a serial killer.

The author takes the realistic studies of law enforcement to a step beyond. Research has shown that FBI profilers actually speak with serial killers to understand their motives in an attempt to quickly capture future perpetrators. The protagonists in this book, through their special relationship, are able to see the killer in a way others cannot. Through the characters readers are drawn into the dark minds of these psychopathic people.

Eden noted, “Research is my favorite part of writing. Over the years I have talked with FBI agents and psychologists. My go to book is the MindHunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas. I think Netflix is doing a TV series on it. This is by the guy who started the behavioral analysis unit. Each chapter talks about the mindset of a different killer the FBI went after. It details the body language and the psychology of these infamous killers, the many faces. I have the book on my desk constantly. This is why I had Samantha try to think like a killer, to get into their mind.”

The plot is “Colomboesqe” in that readers learn early on who is the serial killer. Yet, this does not prevent them from being on the edge of their seats. The twists have the hunter turning into the hunted as the killers play a cat and mouse game with law enforcement, becoming a game of wits.

The story begins with FBI profiler, Samantha Dark able to get into the killers head and to understand their motives. She left the FBI after being thrown under the bus by her boss for failing to find the serial killer. Accused of letting him get away because the murderer was a former lover, Samantha moves back to her hometown in Alabama. After a tape surfaces her ex-partner Blake Gamble pleads with her to help him find this sadistic assassin. When it becomes obvious she is the ultimate trophy victim Blake uses his ex-military skills to protect her. Together they try to outwit these evil and sadistic people, and find them before they continue their killing spree.

The author commented about the main characters. “Samantha is smart; yet, has trust issues and because of that keeps secrets. She is a conflicted heroine because justice matters most to her and she does not always see the world as black and white. I explored with her how it is truly hard to know someone, especially those who do not fully open up. We only know what people show us, basically what is on the surface. After losing her job she lost her self-worth and had a hard time keeping that image she wanted to present to the world. Regarding Blake, he is very different from Samantha in personality. He is all about law and order. What you see is what you get.”

The two antagonists were written as psychopaths. “I wanted to make sure they did very bad things. Dr. Cameron Latham is Samantha’s former friend who she had an intimate relationship with. I think he cared about Sam, and knew she was the one person in the world he could relate to, his anchor. He was never impulsive and always had a plan. Unlike Cameron, his apprentice Jason Burke was driven by emotion, and was unable to control himself.”

Eden also thinks the setting played an important role in the book. “Fairhope, Alabama is the place where I grew up. My editor tried to get me to revise some of what I wrote about this place, thinking it was unrealistic. But everything I wrote is real. In this town more people have boats than cars. I love the water and do own a boat. It is a ‘boatcentric’ area. I wrote in the book about air boat rides because it is one of my favorite things to do.”

The intensity of the plot is not only with the mystery, but it also comes into play with the chemistry between Blake and Samantha. The passionate love scenes leave little for readers’ imagination. But this is also true of the gruesome descriptions of the crime scenes where the perps kill for sport and experimentation, to find how people react when they know they are about to die. They enjoy dishing out pain, making the victims suffer as they lose hope, and play G-d, deciding who shall live and who shall die.

Because she enjoys writing books with romantic suspense and taking readers on a thrill ride she has her stories with a darker plot. Her next book comes out in May, part of her “lost series.” Eden gave a heads up about her next projects, “Lost stands for Last Option Search Team. These civilians’ job is to find missing people after the case has gone cold. This will be the last book in this series, because I wrap up one before another one begins. My next book in the ‘Killer Instinct” series will have Samantha and Blake as supporting characters. She is the supervisor of a new assembled team who recruits only those who have a connection with serial killers. This book comes out in July and will feature FBI Agent Tucker Frost whose brother is a serial killer. I think it is really fun to explore this theme.”

After The Dark gets readers hooked from page one. Eden does a wonderful job with the character development as she allows readers to get into the minds of the antagonists and protagonists. The tense atmosphere created with the brutality of the murders makes the plot very suspenseful.


Book Review The Devils Triangle

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

The Devil’s Triangle by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison is very reminiscent of a James Bond story. With all the adventure and action readers might have to suspend belief as they take the journey with the characters. This story moves from the ancient time to modern day and includes Moses’ staff, the Arc of the Covenant, Tesla’s experiments on weather, and the mysterious Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil’s Triangle.

Ellison commented, “The idea for the story came from a dream of Catherine where a motorcycle bursts out of an underground tunnel, flies into the air, and lands in a lake. To determine how to write something around it we tossed ideas back and forth. We thought of Tesla and his manipulation of the weather. The story taps into how science merges with the power of G-d, creating and changing the weather.”

FBI Special Agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine head the FBI’s Covert Eyes Team that tackles unusual cases, both internationally and domestically. In this story Kitsune, the international thief, returns from her exploits in a previous book, The Final Cut. Also, returning, now a full fledge member of the team is Adam, the hacker who Nicholas mentored and was first introduced in The End Game. All the team’s skills are needed to battle evil twins who are trying to find the Ark of the Covenant and wield its power. They use the knowledge given to their grandfather by Nikola Tesla on how to manipulate the weather. To bring the world to its knees they are literally creating storms, first a sandstorm in Bejing, and then a hurricane to hit Washington DC. The FBI team with the help of the master thief Kitsune must race against time, and nature herself, to stop an obsessed family from devastating cities and controlling the world.

Knowing they wanted to bring back Kitsune, Ellison noted, “Both of us love her character. We knew from the beginning she was to be the center of the storyline, the focus. The next book will not have her back, and she will not be a consultant for the FBI because it is more enjoyable to have her step into something.”

This novel can best be described as a science fiction thriller. It is a fun read where readers will be highly entertained. 51QdOVBzS3L._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review Never Let You Go

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens is a compelling read. It explores the brutality of domestic violence including obsession, entrapment, control, and manipulation. Readers will go through the same emotions with the characters of fear, love, and courage.

Stevens noted, “I guess I was influenced subconsciously by what happened in my personal life. My father who was a violent alcoholic abused my mother. As I was writing I found I was thinking back on things. There was this double side where I respected my mom and recognized the domestic violence, but I really loved my dad. Even though he had these really bad issues there was a part of him that was really great. As Sophie was talking to her father I would have a tingling sensation at the base of my neck thinking, ‘wow. I never got to say this to my dad.’ I think I was able through Sophie to speak with my dad. But I want to make it clear this was not an agenda book. This book is not my family’s story.”

More than anything this is a character driven novel. The strength of the story lies with the love story between a mother, Lindsey, and a child, Sophie. They were very likeable, believable, and realistic, with their relationship taking center stage as Lindsey tries to insulate her daughter. The alternating narratives between Lindsey and Sophie allow the reader to get to know them and understand the emotional tug of war they are going through.

The author is hoping, “My biggest goal is to show that the cycle can be broken. I took young Sophie’s quirks from my daughter who is four. I hope I portrayed what my daughter and my relationship will grow into and maintain the closeness Lindsey had with Sophie as she turned eighteen.”

The plot begins with Lindsey, Sophie, and Andrew in Mexico on a vacation. It showcases how abusive and controlling Andrew can be as he uses emotional mind games to keep her in line. He shows her that she is powerless and to leave him would mean she would lose her daughter. Knowing that she must escape this malicious and violent individual for her and Sophie’s well being she risks all that are meaningful to escape. This led to a spiral of events that included Andrew going to jail. Now eleven years later, Lindsey and Sophie have built a new life. Unfortunately, shortly after Andrew is released from prison someone starts stalking Lindsey. Sophie has mixed emotions, because she has a loyalty to her mother, knowing of her father’s abuse, but also wanting a relationship with her father.

Since Stevens also had an abusive dad she has memories of feeling as if she were in a tug of war between parents. “I also went back to visit my dad. Remember Andrew was never abusive to Sophie. As with Sophie I also felt I had my own needs and I wanted to have a relationship with my dad. It was very painful and challenging to write. On a day-to-day basis both the fictional and real life fathers could be great to their daughters until they were stressed and started drinking. It seems I am protective of these memories. I channeled my longing for a father into Sophie’s feelings. The dads were clever and smart; yet, had massive anger issues that they could not control.”

If this is the first book read by this author, it should not be the last. The author keeps the tension high and when the reader thinks they have figured out what is happening Stevens throws a curve ball with the many twists and turns. 51wVNa6an1L._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review Vicious Circle

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Vicious Circle by C. J. Box is not the usual mystery/thriller novel. It is reminiscent of the classic old-time western with “High Noon” coming to mind. Besides an intense plot, readers get a flavor for what it is like to live on the Western frontier of Wyoming.

Box noted, “The way the previous book ended, I knew Dallas and Brenda Cates will be back, because I made sure to set up a dilemma. It has many of the elements of a classic Western. The bad guy gets out of jail and sets out for revenge, making sure it is personal. He attacks Joe’s family forcing him to protect them even if it means not always following the rule of law. He is basically on his own, a ‘he versus the bad guys.’ Most game wardens are like Joe, risking their life working in remote areas, and have little back up.”

This is the sequel to Endangered where game warden Joe Pickett went toe-to-toe with the Cates family. Dallas Cates beat Joe’s middle daughter April to an inch of her life. The end result was his mother Brenda becoming a quadriplegic, some Cates family members dead, and Dallas doing more than a year behind bars, thanks in part to some trumped-up charges. After serving his time he is released from prison and wants to get revenge, waging a war against Joe and his family.

What Box does very well is blend the modern day with the isolated West. The book opens with Pickett and two others in a small airplane searching for a missing hunter. They use high technology of an Ipad app, an infrared device to spot both animals and human beings. Right after the group thinks they have found the hunter below on the ground, they witness his shocking murder, all because he warned Joe. Another technology discussed was the wheelchair used by Brenda while in Prison.

As with so many of his books, Box does the research personally. He told of how “I took a ride with the Wyoming Civil Air Patrol. It was pretty interesting how they used the technology and unlike Joe I did not even get airsick. Regarding the wheelchair, Georgia Tech came up with the idea of a tongue-controlled device. Depending on how the tongue moves that controls the direction and speed. The brain moves the tongue and the tongue moves the chair.”

Readers of the series will enjoy the supporting characters as well. This includes the return of Pickett’s long-time friend Nate Romanowski, who joins Joe in the fight to save his family, and the newly elected populist Governor Colter Allen. People get a flavor of Wyoming’s politics and how justice is doled out, including a few courtroom scenes.

In addition they learn more about Western culture. Box noted, “The scene about women rodeo riders is true. There is a college that does have events with women. Conceivably they can only participate in some contests because they can get really beat up. Women are able to participate in the ones involving finesse, such as barrel racing and roping a cow while riding at full blast.”

This storyline is very suspenseful and the action never slows down. Besides the riveting plot readers will also feel as if they are in the wilderness with the very descriptive scenes. 51k8BLS4DEL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review Desert Vengeance

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

Desert Vengeance by Betty Webb is a mystery/thriller series surrounding the main character detective Lena Jones. As with all Webb books she has a gripping plot while exploring the psyche of those she writes about, intertwining human rights issues. In this installment the subject matters of sexual abuse and foster parenting are explored.

As a nine year old, Lena’s foster father, Brian Wycoff, repeatedly raped her every week. To make matters worse, his wife was an enabler, knowingly looking the other way. Lena is waiting to exact revenge for his crimes on the day he is released from prison. She has every intention of killing this man, but is thwarted when someone gets to him first. Now there are more murders to solve, because his wife was killed, shot in each eye. After being cleared as a suspect, Lena uses her profession of a private detective to investigate what really happened considering there are multiple suspects with motives.

The author noted, “In doing my research I actually found a site on the Internet that is devoted to women married to child molesters. Reading this is one of the creepiest things I have ever done. They are full of self-pity. They never, at any time, discuss the pain a child went through at the hands of their spouse. They really do not care. The common thread is their worrying about finances since the spouse was the money support. They very rarely blow the whistle and seem to keep their mouths shut making sure the money flows in.”

Even though she is seen as someone seeking vengeance, Lena is a very likeable, believable, and sympathetic character. The theme is about letting go, and Lena must do exactly that while trying to control her obsession of getting justice.

In all her books, Webb uses her past experiences to write these riveting stories. Having been a journalist for over twenty years she was exposed to many different kinds of cases. She knows what it is like to write about controversial issues, and uses those skills to make the novels very realistic. In this case, readers are able to learn about child molestation without the many horrific details.

With a powerful subject, enthralling characters, and a compelling plot readers will not want to put this book down. Webb offers a twist and turn mystery, that is not superficial because of the way she presents such gripping issues. 51MIr88aYaL._SX329_BO1 204 203 200_


Book Review In Farleigh Field

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen is a fact filled historical mystery. The story takes place during 1941 in the English countryside. Inspired by the events of World War II this is a sweeping and riveting stand-alone novel involving class, family, love, and betrayal.

She wanted to write about this era since, “I think it was the last time we had a feeling of good versus evil. Everybody felt if we do not stop the evil it would be the end of the world. Because of that they were willing to make sacrifices with a great sense of duty where everyone rooted for each other. I was born in the middle of World War II. Even after the war, in England, everything was rationed until 1953, and every time you went for a walk you passed a bombsite. It was a grim atmosphere.”

The plot is built around three life long friends: Ben Cresswell, the Vicar’s son, who now serves as a homeland spy; Lady Pamela Sutton, the middle daughter of an aristocratic family who decodes German correspondence at Bletchley; and Jeremy Prescott, an injured RAF fighter pilot. Their carefree youth is contrasted with the dangers of the Nazis. They are trying to find out about a German that died parachuting into the countryside. Many believe his mission was to deliver a mysterious message to a German spy on how to assassinate either the Royal Family or Winston Churchill. The suspect pool grows as the people of interest include an English POW who escaped, those escaping the German atrocities, Canadians, a governess, and someone who could be a double spy.

The main and supporting characters created are very intriguing and engaging. Readers will wish Bowen would continue to re-visit them by turning the stand-alone into a series. The two male characters are Ben who is smart and loyal, while Jeremy is the ultimate bad boy. Besides Pamela, her sister Margot allows people to get a view of the German brutalities. The youngest, Phoebe, of the five Sutton daughters, befriends Alfie, taken in by the groundskeeper for safety reasons. All desire to discover the identity of the German spy. Bowen also writes of Farleigh Field as if it is a character. In many ways it becomes the central element of the plot considering it serves as the headquarters of a British armed forces unit.

Bowen 51gYjsFWN7L._SX331_BO1 204 203 200_ contrasts the two male leads, “Jeremy was the ultimate bad boy. He was charismatic, dashing, and daring. If I was a young girl I would have been attracted to him. As Pamela says in the book, ‘you knew you would not be quite safe with Jeremy, but you knew you were alive.’ She took for granted he would marry her, but all he wanted was sex. Ben on the other hand was someone you would turn to if you were in trouble, like an older brother. He was kind, loyal, dependable, and considerate.”

Because of its location, Farleigh Field is the setting where espionage and mysterious events occur, drawing in the countryside aristocracy. Many lost privilege, property, and power as their estates were taken over by the war effort. Bowen brilliantly and interestingly describes the culture of the time where the rich and powerful either made sacrifices with the rest of the English population, or were the ones who chose to join an organization that believed in making a peace with Hitler.

This story of war, love, and mystery is extremely suspenseful. It is both realistic and believable. Through the character’s eyes readers will be drawn into the era and begin to understand the sacrifices and hardships placed on English society.


Book Review When Tides Turn

When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin is one of those novels where readers have a gripping mystery and can learn something too. The third and final book of the series follows the Avery family. Based in Boston this plot includes the Battle of the Atlantic and US Navy WAVES, a unit of women volunteers.

Although Sundin does not personally have experience in the armed forces, for her it is all in the family. “The year I started writing this book is the same year my son enlisted in the Navy. I was walking the path with him as we adjusted to the culture and the terms. I also had a military connection through my family. My grandfather was a medic in the Navy during World War II and my great uncle was a B-17 bomber pilot. My grandfather also trained US spies in the German language.”

Through her engaging characters people realize the numerous contributions women made to the war effort. Although not eligible for combat duty, as more men went off to war, the WAVES performed jobs in the aviation community, medical professions, science, technology, and communication. Characters include: Nora an engineer, Lillian a pharmacist, and Tess, using her degree in business to supervise the clerical staff. Their unconventional ways had them band together in a man’s world, unlike most women who stayed at home, did not have a job, or never attended college.

Sundin commented about the WAVES, “Remember, before the WAVES, the previous role of women was to be nurses. I wanted to show how the Navy did not want the WAVES at first, fearing women would get in the way and distract men. Eventually women like my characters were seen as professional, efficient, and competent. I know the picture of Rosie The Riveter is still popular today. I have had people today think it sexist that women were not allowed in combat during World War II. But we must remember the times. I think the WAVES were actually progressive. We have to be careful not to judge the past by the standards of today. The WAVES were brave and forward thinking women. I think they paved the way for women in the military today.”

The plot has readers spell bound as they find out about the brutality of the Nazis, the threat of German spies and saboteurs, as well as the anti-submarine efforts including radar, weapons, and tactics. Lt. Dan Avery uses his skills to fight German U-boats, after being assigned to an escort carrier during the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic.

To make the mystery applicable to Northeast America Sundin stated, “I did take some liberties. In Europe German spies did land by U-boats and there were home grown ones as well. They went after the Resistance to try to quell them. For example, they took over much of the Dutch resistance. I used creativity in taking what the Germans did in Europe to America.”

The theme of the story is how the main characters, Tess and Dan, grow in their jobs, as individuals, and in their relationship. They are opposites in that Tess is playful, cheerful, and sociable while Dan is serious, an introvert, and someone who builds walls.

With the backdrop of World War II Sundin weaves together a fascinating story with fascinating characters. Part historical, part mystery, with a tinge of romance the finale of this three book series is a home run. 51eIVS9TYwL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_


Book Review A Bridge Across The Ocean

The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.

A Bridge Across The Ocean by Susan Meissner spans the lives of three women, one in modern day and the other two during the 1940s. She intertwines their lives with the help of a ship, some ghosts, and historical facts surrounding the Nazi regime. The gripping story of a young German ballerina and the daughter of a French resistance fighter are heart wrenching.

Meissner explained the symbolism of the title, “All of the characters are taking a journey. They are brave as they enter this unknown world, where they cannot see the other side. As I said in the book, ‘Life will send up across a bridge we did not want to cross, but when we finally open our eyes, on the other side, we see that there had been nothing to fear after all,’ and we must move forward. Both characters saw torture, misery, and felt helpless. They knew they needed to climb out of the abyss. They did so with courage and patience. I hope people see this as a story of goodness, justice, love, and loyalty.”

Beyond the human characters is a ship, the Queen Mary, which takes on human qualities, seemingly with a life of its own. The mystery begins aboard the RMS Queen Mary as it transported at the end of the war thousands of World War II brides who married American servicemen. Aboard is a former ballerina who married a Nazi Gestapo Agent, Annaliese Lange, and Simone Deveraux, the daughter of a French Resistance spy. One is trying to escape her past, while the other is trying to start a new life in a new land. But, when the voyage ends in New York, only one of them disembarks. Readers will frantically want to find out what happened to Annaleise, did she jump or was she pushed?

The other main character, Brette Caslake, is someone who senses and communicates with drifters, or as people commonly refer to them, ghosts. On a visit to the Queen Mary a spirit asks her to investigate Annaliese’s supposed suicide. Brette decides to solve this seventy-year-old mystery of the war bride.

The author plays off the theories that this ship is haunted and a gathering place for those who have not “crossed over,” with the Queen Mary spirit watching over all of them. The ghostly part is not all encompassing to the plot. Anyone who enjoys the paranormal genre will like this book, but for those people who want to concentrate on the historical scenes, there is plenty to go around. In fact, the account of both women in the midst of World War II is the highlight of this novel. Annaliese's and Simone’s stories are engaging and heartbreaking.

Meissner noted, “As I was taking a tour of the ship, I learned how she brought over all these war brides after the war in 1946. Then I found out about how she was haunted. I made the leap that there is the ability for the soul to hang around after death, so I treated it as a literary character. In the acknowledgements I wrote, ‘I am grateful to G-d, who has assured me beyond all doubt that this life on earth is not all there is.’ If you believe there is life after death than it can be possible there are ghosts. I pondered that belief. I thought if ghosts are real than there must be more to the physical world and in that world there is more than we can actually see.”

This being a character driven story, readers learn how Simone watched her father and brother executed by the Nazis, had a Gestapo agent rape her, and hid from them with the help of the French resistance. While in hiding she met her future husband, an American pilot injured when his plane was shot down. As she helped him to recover, they taught each other English through the Bible, fell in love, and married at the end of the war.

The other war bride, Annaliese, meets her future husband during her performance of “Swan Lake.” He is abusive, controlling, and threatening. A powerful quote hammers the point home, “It only mattered to him that she feared and respected him…” Knowing she must escape the relationship it became an obsession with her to find a way to freedom. Taking her dead friend’s identity she boards the ship as a war bride, hoping to become anonymous in America.

All three women take a journey to discover whom they are and what they must do to survive. Through the mystery and the dangers encountered they realize that sometimes there is no control over events and circumstances. The famous saying “you can’t pick your family, only your friends” comes to mind. The book quote is a version of this, “That’s the beauty and burden of having a child. You don’t pick and choose the one you think you want, you are handed the one G-d gives you.”

The plot and the characters are very intriguing. The spirit of the Queen Mary is intertwined within the historical lives of Simone, Annaliese, and Brette. Readers will not want to put this engaging book down. 51h4EL5z8dL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_