#BookReviewWednesday – The Girlfriend Experience

The book-a-week challenge continues with  The Girlfriend Experience (Matt Bugatti Book 1) by Charles O’Donnell.

ODonnel1Inside the mind of Dr. Matteo Bugatti lives the single-minded desire to break the internet’s most secure code. Which is fine for the naive computer wizard, until the NSA and the Chinese take an interest in his doings. The closer he gets to solving the riddle, the higher the stakes become. Not that he is aware of what’s going on around him until it’s too late, and breaking the code becomes a matter of life and death. For the genius Matt Bugatti, what he doesn’t know can kill him.

Charles O’Donnell has crafted a techno-thriller with enough elements to satisfy the demands of any fan of the genre: nefarious personalities, spy vs. spy, double dealings, temptation, betrayal, trust, and a plot that moves along at a pretty good clip despite a heavy load of deep computer technology that O’Donnell handles masterfully.

The last time I read what’s now called a techno-thriller was The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy’s debut novel. I liked it because I was in the navy and I’m fascinated by surface warfare and submarine technology. Fast-forward 30 years to The Girlfriend Experience. I have no love nor interest for code, software, hardware, or computer science in general, and I have to admit the details O’Donnell includes falls into the ‘skip over’ category of my reading, but that’s just me.

O’Donnell did not sacrifice technology for story, and for that I’m thankful. I am interested in what’s next for Matt Bugatti in Book 2, Moment of Conception. I’m looking forward to finding out.

The Girlfriend Experience, by Charles O’Donnell.

4 stars out of 5.

Available as ebook and paperback.


Check in every week for Book Review Wednesday. I’m reading and reviewing a book a week throughout 2018. Join me. Authors, if you have a book you would like reviewed, send me an email at joe@josephmarkbrewer.com.


Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Lieutenant Columbo and Kurt Wallander and you have an interesting character in Sato and a thrilling new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s SonThe Thief’s MistakeTraitors & Lies, or Cat’s Meow. And check out Shig’s Readers Club to get a free copy of Tokyo Summer, the exciting Shig Sato prequel that tells the story of the events that led up to The Gangster’s Son.


Japan & Espionage: Shig Sato wasn’t the first to fall into a trap

KGB. GRU. CIA. The Cold War. It’s the stuff of thrilling writing. But do you know the story behind the story?

In Traitors & Lies, Tokyo’s reluctant P.I., Shig Sato, finds himself entangled in high-stakes international espionage in early 1990s Tokyo. It doesn’t take long for Shig to realize he’s been lied to, and might just be a pawn in the biggest power grab in the Cold War.


(AP photos)

But they say truth is stranger than fiction. It’s certainly the case with one of my favorite authors, Ian Fleming, and the story behind You Only Live Twice. This article that ran in The Japan Times, one of my old newspaper haunts, explains why. Read the fascinating story here.

To find out what it takes for Shig Sato to come to his senses about Katsuo Takahashi, and his new life as a private investigator, pick up a copy of Traitor’s & Lies.



Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Kurt Wallander and Japan Noir and you have a new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s Son, The Thief’s Mistake, or Traitors & Lies – and to read how it all began. To find out more about the World of Shig Sato, sign up for a periodic newsletter. All you have to do is click here.


Today’s the day! The new Shig is out

After writing a Japan ex-pat novel a friend of mine told me the most interesting part of the story was a minor character,  a private investigator. I kept some of the other characters in the story. That’s how the Shig Sato mysteries were born.

Over the last four years I’ve had a blast writing the series. Book 3, Traitors & Lies, is available on Amazon today, December 16.

And two more books are set to come out in 2017! Nobody should be having this much fun.


I invite you to enjoy Traitors & Lies – and discover the World of Shig Sato.

It’s fun for me. I hope they’re fun for you.

Merry Christmas!

Discover the World of Shig Sato. Tokyo Summer, a Shig Sato novella, is yours when you sign up for my mailing list. No strings attached. Just click

Inside, outside, in between

ss3new5smHave you ever noticed how sometimes events outside your world cause you to turn inward?      To reflect?  Maybe even give you the time to summon the courage to take action?

I have been living inside myself for several weeks now, finishing Shig Sato book 3, Traitors & Lies. I have to be honest: the events of the last few weeks did not encourage me to go outside myself. Truth is, I think writers and everyone who create must live inside themselves in order to exist in the world.

Traitors & Lies continues the story of former Tokyo police Inspector Shig Sato, now a private investigator and a reluctant one at that. It is August 1991. Turmoil in Moscow brings the Soviet leadership to the brink of a coup d’etat. And it is seven weeks after the death of Shig’s beloved wife, Miki. Our story begins the day after Miki’s shijūkunichi, her 49th day memorial. Shig finds out a mutilated body has been discovered in Tokyo Bay. This gives his crime-solving instincts a spark: who is this person, and why are they in the bay? Upon returning to Tokyo to resume his P.I. work, he is asked to find a missing person: a U.S. Navy officer who has not reported for duty at the American embassy.

Shig knows he must set aside his mourning. But outside events overtake him as he regains a sense of himselfs while pursuing the answers to two questions: where is the missing American? And who is the body in the bay?

Traitors & Lies. Be ready for it this December.

Discover the world of Shig Sato. Get the Shig Sato Book 1  The Gangster’s Son  at no cost – just click here. And for more on what’s happening in the World of Shig Sato, click here for my newsletter.



A Traitor and a Lie


Moscow, 1991. A tumultuous summer pushes the Kremlin to the brink of chaos. The Soviet spy network begins to unravel. Rivals choose sides.  Ambitious men make their move. Especially in Washington, D.C.

“I hate this country.” It was said in a manner so off-handed, with a sigh so deep, Konstantin Morozov nearly made a quick feint to the left, hoping quickness and surprise would at least rid him of the cold steel round barrel of a 9mm pressing against his sweaty head.

He hoped to stand and face his executioner. If he was going to die at the hands of The Wolf, he wanted to do it like a man, face to face. Konstantin Morozov was not a foolish man, but dire circumstance produced foolish thoughts. But what was more foolish, sitting at his own kitchen table in his own apartment in Washington, D.C., with a gun to his head, or believing the message traffic he had seen indicating that his government would send someone to analyze recently ‘obtained’ American intelligence data concerning the American Navy’s Pacific Fleet’s reactions regarding the turmoil in Moscow – data he had gathered himself, thanks to his cooperative American network of associates, especially a certain American Navy communications officer in Tokyo.

Morozov had been glad he was in Washington, concerned only with making sure his cabal of American informants kept providing their information, paying them as usual, and most importantly, reminding them of the dire consequences they faced if they decided to renege on their “arrangement.” Morozov may be a slight man, but his mild manners hid a feral instinct for survival.

Everything had been going so well for so long Morozov knew something was bound to go wrong eventually. He enjoyed his anonymous life in this place called Gaithersburg, Maryland, just outside America’s capital city, and he especially enjoyed his job at the National Institute of Health. He was biologist first and foremost, and his cover fit his intellectual mind so well he often thought of himself as the perfect American. That he had managed to survive his background checks was not surprising, once he understood the nature of the American government bureaucracy.

Why he expected everything to keep on as normal with a revolution at the fore in Moscow made him curse his stupidity, mental flaccidity, his own ease into an American lifestyle that he should have guarded against. Now he was paying for such sloth. He should have known the GRU would never be ambitious enough to want to review what he had done in America. Only a man like The Wolf, a brigand and a renegade, would have been able to penetrate the idiotic Soviet intelligence community to the point where he could slip into Washington, D.C.

“Do you have it all?” The Wolf asked, casually but firmly, watching Morozov complete the handwritten note he had been dictating.

“Yes, just as you said.”

The Wolf peered over the man’s shoulder, reading the note for himself. He had memorized the code the man was using. From his vantage point, standing over Morozov’s shoulder, peering down, firmly pressing the silencer of the 9mm to Morozov’s head, The Wolf carefully read the note through one last time, then said, “All right. Seal it and address the envelope as you normally would.”

Calming himself, waiting for his hands to steady, Morozov took a deep breath and asked, “No different than any other time?”


Morozov wrote the return address first, in the American custom, in the upper left-hand corner. Then in the center of the envelope he wrote

CWO Daryl Bennett, USN

Communications Department

Commander, Seventh Fleet

USS Blue Ridge LCC-19

FPO Seattle 96628

“That’s it?”

“That’s it,” Morozov replied.

“What is this Seattle?”

Morozov felt the gun press harder.

“It’s the Americans. They send their mail to Seattle before sending it to Japan,” Morozov calmly explained despite the sweat rising from forehead. “I swear. FPO means Fleet Post Office. The letter will get to Tokyo. I swear.”

Morozov had been proud of his brainstorm, using this sailor’s regular navy address to send his coded messages. The Wolf reluctantly admired it, too. It was brilliant in its simplicity. Right under the American navy’s nose, every time. Not that there were many messages. This Bennett person knew what Morozov wanted and sent the material to him the same way, in duplicate, in case one parcel got lost. Regular mail, from Maryland USA to a ship in the American fleet on the other side of the world, and back the same way.

“You always were a brilliant fuck,” The Wolf said, picking up the letter and tucking it into his shirt pocket.

“You’re going to need a stamp,” Morozov said.

“You’re going to need more than a stamp,” The Wolf replied, walking around Morozov, allowing him to take a good look at his former commanding officer. Morozov wasn’t looking at Bogdan, but the barrel of the silencer at the end of the 9mm. Before Morozov exhaled his final breath the bullet from the gun smashed the bone above his right eye and traveled through his brain, exited the other side, and lodged itself into a sofa ten feet away. Vorkov stood motionless as he watched Morozov go limp.

The Wolf enjoyed executing a worthless bureaucrat in the worthless espionage apparatus of a worthless politburo cracking apart. The Wolf was glad to be on the outside, watching the traitorous bureaucracy crumble, the nation fall apart, especially after all he did for Mother Russian, long years fighting her wars, only to be cashiered after losing men in in the mountains of Afghanistan, good men the Kremlin did not seem to care about after so many years in those foreign mountains.

No, The Wolf was glad to be on the outside, with his own regime. He could watch fools like Gorbachev and Yeltsin and know he had real power, real influence. But he needed the intelligence the traitorous American naval officer had been providing the Kremlin all these years. It had been somewhat difficult to find the traitor’s handler. But he had.

The Wolf retrieved the slug that had passed through the bookish little man’s head and lodged into the decadent plush leather furniture, picked up the spent shell casing, and quietly left the small apartment, stopping only to tug his wallet from his jacket pocket to make sure he did indeed have the stamp for the letter to the traitor Bennett.

Traitors & Lies – A Shig Sato Mystery – look for it in early 2016.  To keep up with the latest T& L news and get a sneak peek at an advanced copy, sign up for my newsletter.

Book Review: Murder Most Rural

Murder Most RuralMurderMostRural

(The Rizwan Sabir Mysteries Book 5)

Charlie Flowers

Format: Kindle Edition

★★★★★ 5 stars

Rizwan and Holly ‘Bang-Bang’ Sabir seem to have a nose for trouble even when carrying out a routine government intelligence operation in the quiet English countryside. But it’s not just any locale – it’s a quaint village in a part of the world Riz got to know during summers of his youth, the type of hills and woods and haunts that captures a lad’s imagination, and vastly different from his East London life.
They set about doing what they seem to do best – tossing a little bit of fun into your basic humdrum training exercise, being the cute couple that they are, with their ‘crack baby’ adopted daughter and myriad of memorable special forces friends popping up to create a buzz in the community.
But then there’s a suicide – the wife of the local big wheel, politically connected and nearly untouchable. Riz has his doubts about the circumstances – was it suicide or the perfect murder? Riz and Bang-Bang use their talents to piece together the scheme, and call on friends in high places to get to the bottom of the caper. What emerges is a top-flight mystery.
‘Murder Most Rural’ is my first taste of Charlie Flower’s storytelling and I’m hooked. He spares no detail in bringing to life Riz and Bang-Bang’s skills, quirks and banter. I love the characters and the detailed telling of military and special ops, even in the least likely of settings, and a style that keeps the story moving. I’ll be back for more.

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