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    REVIEW: The Illuminati Circle by Robert J. Ristino

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    Illuminati Cycle: The Illuminati Circle by Robert J. Ristino

    Two sicarii, the Illuminati’s deadly assassins, make their way from the Arab Emirates to the French Alps leaving a trail of bodies as they search for one of their own. They are cleaning up loose ends caused by the FBI’s disruption of the Illuminati’s child sex trafficking network. On their trail are SSA Bing Ingram and his FBI CARD team assigned to an Interpol task force charged with destroying the network uncovered in the United States. The sicarii and the task force find themselves in a cross-continental race to locate the one man who could cause the ultimate destruction of the network – a high-ranking member of the Illuminati Circle. With the lives of countless children hanging in the balance, the task force must find the cunning Circle member before the sicarii do. The race from Abu Dhabi to Torun is as thrilling as the Grand Prix … but far more deadly.

    The Illuminati Circle has a Hollywood feel to it, like something directed by Ron Howard. We get fast-paced action, gorgeous French scenery, beautiful women and gun-fights. We can cast Clive Owen as SSA Bing Ingram, Brie Larson as Trish and Amber Heard as Haseena.

    The Illuminati, unlike the occult Illuminati we typically know of, are a group of criminals with an MBA-like criminal network specializing in child trafficking. What I know of child trafficking is that they usually get their victims from poorer countries like Cambodia or the Philippines. It’s an eye-opener that they also abduct children from developed countries. The Illuminati caters to extremely rich clients by providing them what they specifically requested via the dark web. This is a very sickening crime and the book did a good job showing the extent of these criminal activities and the experiences of the children without getting too explicit or too graphic.

    Plot-wise, you can’t go wrong with a really interesting one like this and it was a breeze to read as well. However, I wasn’t feeling the characters. There is a good attempt to give them their quirks, personalities and sexual tension but they still come across as flat. LeFrenniere, who was an amoral, professional criminal (and played by Vincent Cassel), came the closest to being the most interesting but he didn’t quite get there. I would have wanted him to be more nuanced or at least be intimidating. Meh, he caved in too easily to Bing’s bluff. The female characters were the type you would call ‘strong’. They know how to fight and take charge but again, I wish there were some backstories. It would also give the book an extra layer and make the most of the omniscient POV if the relationship between Haseena and Enrika Venclava (played by Eva Green) was fully fleshed out. It would make Enrika’s motives in the next book much more convincing.

    All in all, I want to witness CARD destroy the Illuminati and rescue the children but hopefully we get that much needed depth to the characters.

    P.S.

    Thank you to the author, Robert J. Ristino for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: The Blackest Crow
    Artist: Kiernan Towers & Charlotte Carrivick
    Album:

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    Nightingale – Aleksandr Voinov

    In Nazi-occupied Paris, most Frenchmen tread warily, but gay nightclub singer Yves Lacroix puts himself in the spotlight with every performance. As a veteran of France’s doomed defense, a survivor of a prison camp, and a “degenerate,” he knows he’s a target. His comic stage persona disguises a shamed, angry heart and gut-wrenching fear for a sister embedded in the Resistance.

    Yet Yves ascends the hierarchy of Parisian nightlife to become a star, attracting the attention—and the protection—of the Nazi Oberst Heinrich von Starck. To complicate matters further, young foot soldier Falk Harfner’s naïve adoration of Yves threatens everything he’s worked for. So does Aryan ideologue von Grimmstein, rival to von Starck, who sees something “a bit like a Jew” in Yves.

    When an ill-chosen quip can mean torture at the hands of the Gestapo, being the acc;laimed Nightingale of Paris might cost Yves his music and his life.

    Damn! I found myself sympathizing with (and rooting for) Yves and his Oberst and finding myself annoyed with Edith as a hassle and Falk as an unnecessary complication. Which is crazy because if this had been Edith’s story, I would be tsking at Yves and his stupid affairs and if Von Starck was not in the picture, I would be OK with Yves and Falk. 

    Stories really have a way of getting under your skin. Perspective is everything.

    P.S.
    Coincidentally, the book model above is the same one as on Provoked, the last book I read in 2017.

    Rating:

    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: L Comme Liaison
    Artist: Dandies (feat. Pete Doherty)
    Album: Illusion et Imparfait

    (source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26175490-nightingale)