Review from Writer’s Digest

I entered SLEEPER CELL, the revised edition, in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Contest. While I didn’t win, I did score 5’s (Outstanding) pretty much across the board.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing:   5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar:   4

Production Quality and Cover Design:   5

Plot and Story Appeal:   5

Character Appeal and Development:   5

Voice and Writing Style:  5

Judge’s Commentary:

Nice opening, with a visceral sense of movement as the aerial vehicle rides the thermals. It’s an exciting hook bringing the reader into the pilot’s world, very effective at starting the story off with good energy and intrigue. Author uses authentic language and definitions, and impresses by never letting the reader swerve out of the loop. Definitions and reminders come easily through descriptions and dialogue. Nice work; great instinct for keeping the reader’s awareness in mind. I like the pace of dialogue scenes: rapid fire exchanges carry that energy of flight, Rangers, and FBI. Normally, I would want to get more depth through conversational layering, with gestures and movement, but author wisely lets that slide for the moment as voice and exchange create the tension in many cases. Well done. Author has a talent for differentiating character voices, an important skill in a story with a nice-sized cast list. The plot is intricate and well-structured. Author obviously put great effort into structuring for logic and interest, as well as for pacing. There is not one instance where he rushes, nor where details fall flat and uninteresting. Nice, consistent building of plot and character levels. Wow, author gives characters history going back for generations, for some exceptional character-building. Well done. As the story winds down, we get the thrill of an unexpected uptick, much like a plane that seems to be on descent but then tilts its nose upward for a rapid rise. The missing drones create intrigue and danger so very naturally here. It’s a very effective plot device, and we once again get the excitement of seeing how Kim, Dennehy and company  will solve the problem. Plenty of sensory details here, especially when the roadside bomb flips the vehicle. Nicely done. Author has an extensive list of sensory detail uses, elevating the bar on the story. The Pazhman/Dennehy firefight was a thrill, with brutality wisely included…. a solid narrative with lots to like about its crafting. Well done….

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About Sleeper Cell…

Pazhman Khan, ruthless member of a secret radical sect, Pachaas Talwaray, is sent to New York to activate a long-dormant sleeper cell. He has a brilliant plan, but hasn’t anticipated one thing: FBI Special Agent Kim Conrad, who soon finds herself in a very personal battle with a psychotic killer. Kim finds an ally in Sgt. Lance Dennehy, formerly of the 75th Rangers, who is rebuilding a life shattered by war and terror.

A fast-paced action-packed thriller. Timely and topical with characters that realistically represent those engaged in the war on terrorism. Fiction that mirrors today’s reality.” – David Szady, Retired Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, FBI

Everything you want in a thriller. Karlson’s book delivers a masterfully constructed plot, full of hairpin turns, smart characters, authentic detail, on a subject that already has built-in minefields.”
– Sarah Kernochan, author of Jane Was Here and Dry Hustle

Karlson knows how to write a page-turner. If this thriller happens to give his readers pause to consider these issues more deeply, which in fact it does, so much the better.” – Rob Phelps, Provincetown Banner

A counter-terrorist thriller that could have been taken straight from the headlines today.”  – The Cape Cod Chronicle