Birds of Flight

Fiction - Thriller - Terrorist
282 Pages
Reviewed on 02/05/2013
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

In addition to creating the Birds of Flight series and the other award-winning science fiction stories, Future Prometheus and Intelligent Design, J.M. Erickson holds a BA in psychology and sociology from Boston College and a master’s degree in psychiatric social work from the Simmons School of Social Work. Certified in cognitive behavioral treatment and a post-trauma specialist, he is also a senior instructor of psychology and counseling at Cambridge College, visiting lecturer at Salem State University’s School of Social Work and a senior therapist in a clinical group practice in the Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

"Albatross" by J.M.Erickson is an action and adventure thriller that tackles terrorism and national security in a fresh and exciting way. The story opens with an intelligence operative waking up to find himself tied to a straight-back chair, seemingly about to be interrogated. He soon discovers that there are neither negotiations nor concessions for him to offer his captors - they have all they want. What follows is a complex and credible plan set into action by four unlikely allies whose common goal is simply to be allowed to stay alive.

Erickson's characters are complicated and real. I especially enjoyed the former psychologist, David, whose calm and thoughtful presence is a major force throughout the book; however, each of the four main characters and their interactions with each other is what makes this book such an enjoyable reading experience. When you first encounter the four adults, they seem to be terrorists bound on some destructive mission, but, as you come to know them, you quickly realize that there is much more going on. I also enjoyed the ethical questions that Erickson brings to play in "Albatross"; for example, the interplay of national security and secrecy with the natural and instinctive urge for people to protect those they love and care about. "Albatross" makes you stop and think - and wonder what you would do in such a situation. This is a thinking man's thriller, filled with moral dilemmas and chessboard strategy. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would not hesitate to recommend it.

Alice DiNizo

Senior Field Agent for the Department of Defense Anthony Maxwell knows he is being interrogated as he is bound to a chair with an IV in his arm. He wants to talk desperately but there is no saliva in his mouth. He recognizes the man who is questioning him. It is David Caulfield, the therapist who has worked with the Federal Government. Maxwell also recognizes the man standing behind Caulfield. "Burns?" questions Maxwell, for he thinks Alex Burns, one of one his top agents, is dead. Maxwell and two other government agents are then killed. Killed? Government agents? Back on May 2 of 2011, Anthony Maxwell was the team leader of top government agents sent in to kill terrorist leader, Oman Sharif Sudani. Instead, upon Maxwell's reversing executive orders, Sudani is kidnapped but all the witnesses are killed. Burns disappears in a helicopter crash and is believed to be KIA if not MIA. But Burns has survived and he is bent on revenge. Not only did he suffer brain injuries in that helicopter crash, but government officials killed the wife of Burns' therapist, David Caulfield. Can Alex Burns, a now-blinded David Caulfield, and their accomplices, Samantha, her beloved sister Becky, and little baby Emma thwart the FBI's field operations where Maxwell worked and hide away safely, living their lives in relative safety?

"Alabatross" is the first in the thriller series by author J.M. Erickson. It is well-written, filled with suspense right to the story's conclusion. Alex Burns, David Caulfield, Samantha, Becky, and all other characters are really believable. The story's premise that Alex and his friends cannot hide forever from the federal government is realistic and will draw the reader into this story. Alex Burns is the albatross that is hung around officials' necks and he simply won't go away. Hopefully, Alex will reappear in future stories. He is just too good a character to disappear.

Maria Beltran

The novel "Albatross: Birds of Flight" unfolds when Anthony Maxwell, a field agent at the Department of Defense Foreign Intelligence’s Operation Center in Waltham, Massachusetts, is kidnapped and murdered. Simultaneously, a number of coordinated attacks take place that threaten the US national security and destabilize the country. Upon investigation, Alex Burns, a former international spy, becomes the prime suspect. Diagnosed as having a trauma-induced amnesia, Burns divulged to his therapist, David Caulfield, the events in a past secret mission that has left him seriously injured. Police Lieutenant Steve Anderson also becomes involved in the investigation and the suspense starts to build up. What follows is a revelation that is potentially damaging to the whole country but in the secret world of espionage, whom can you trust?

There is no doubt that J. M. Erickson is an excellent story teller. The development of the characters in this suspense thriller is done in such a way that they become real persons to the readers. From the way the story is told, we learn about their personal issues and understand why they think and act the way they do. Fast-paced and full of suspense, this is one of those books that you cannot put down. The author has also done his research well, making the story real and compelling. Apart from being a thriller, this novel is also a story of betrayal, romance and redemption. The characters are scarred but they manage to deal with their own demons and do what has to be done. It is a novel that will bring you on an explosive journey in the world of espionage and politics. Above all, it is a moving story about a man's personal journey and redemption.

Dr. Oliva DSouza

Alexander J. Burns, an agent with the Department of Defense - Foreign intelligence agency of the United States - is under attack by his own agency. His memory loss has given them the upper hand and he is being hounded. Dr.David Caulfield helps him to recover and ends up paying a heavy price for it. As the memories start flooding back, the truth unfolds and Alex Burns has to get back into his spy mode to protect the ones he loves. He devises an ingenious, foolproof plan to create chaos and expose those who have victimized him. He is helped by people who have suffered as he has and together they are out to seek revenge. Success depends on their plan working precisely and their team effort. Will they be able to do it? Do civilians have a right to defend their lives while the government is out to destroy them? Is becoming terrorists the only way out for Alex and his team of motivated civilians?

"Albatross: Birds of Flight" by J.M.Erickson is a thriller to the core. It grips you from the beginning, making you want to read it from start to finish at one go. The clever plot and storyline keep you hooked throughout, making it a book that could be a good read on a long flight or when you want to read something exciting. Alex Burns's character is something that one would want to see more of and hopefully a sequel will follow soon. The best part is the escape strategy put in place by the "terrorists". But, will they really get away with it? well, one can only hope and wait for the sequel.

Michelle Randall

Alex Burns has seen it all in his tour fighting terrorism, but upon finding out some classified information he is starting to think differently about his job. Too bad his bosses don't agree, and the next thing Alex knows he is the target of friendly fire. He survives but has no memory, so the government is watching him closely. What starts off the plan called Albatross is the government's disregard for anyone else. When they think Alex knows something, they start trying to kill off anyone he might have talked to, which doesn't sit well with Alex. J.M. Erickson takes you into the mind of a special forces agent done wrong, and a government that has no problems in killing innocent people to keep secrets. Add to that those innocent people who managed to get away, and it's not so much revenge as a way to get the government to leave them alone they are looking for.

From the very beginning, when you meet Alex Burns and all through the times he and Dr. Caulfield are together, you learn of a man with so much more to offer than what he was trained to do. You come to feel for Alex and Dr. Caulfield. You sympathize with the life that Sam and Becky had to live through and you want the best for them, and you even understand why they are doing this. Albatross also reveals the dark side of governments, especially when certain areas have too much control without any supervision. J.M. Erickson tells a believable yet, at the same time, unbelievable story of a man slated to be knocked off by his own government, and what happens when they don't do the job and he is left to act later. This is a great read for anyone; you will be swept away with the intrigue and suspense.

Patricia Reding

The very word “betrayal” evokes strong emotion. The knowledge one has been betrayed can also evoke serious action. Such is the case in Albatross: Birds of Flight by J. M. Erickson. The story opens as Alex Burns, a member of an elite military-style group that helps to fight terrorism, discovers something his superiors would rather he did not know. Within a day, the helicopter in which he rides while on a mission over foreign soil, goes down and Alex is left to die. But, things are not always what they seem. Thus, we next meet Alex in the present day, five years later. Though it took time, Alex’s memories returned — and someone wants to know what he knows. But Alex, a changed man, is a step ahead of the game and has other plans. With the assistance of Samantha, a nurse with a chequered past, Samantha’s sister, Becky, a troubled young woman, and David, a psychologist blinded by an explosion meant to take him out, Alex creates a unit of mere civilians that pays a terrorist visit on his old unit.

J.M. Erickson has drawn tragic and needy characters in Alex, Sam, Becky and David. Each is scarred physically or emotionally — or both. Yet, while they all seek some form of justice, they choose not to bring harm to others. To meet their goal, every detail is attended to and possible required changes to their plan are anticipated and prepared for. Together, this unusual “family” strikes an unexpected community. As readers briskly turn pages, they will find it surprisingly easy to feel for these characters and even to root for them.

Ray Simmons

Albatross: Birds of Flight by J.M. Erickson starts with a conversation between two intelligence operatives. Burns and Maxwell are partners but there is a tension and bitterness in their conversation that tells us these men are not true partners or friends. They don't even like each other. Burns is injured in a helicopter crash while on his way to a mission that has apparently been compromised. His chopper goes down and he disappears. This is the prologue. J.M. Erickson's Albatross: Birds of Flight opens with a bang and only gets grittier and more convoluted as you race towards the end. Alexander Burns loses part of his memory in that helicopter crash and in the spy business, what you don't know can kill you.

I have to say I love Albatross: Birds of Flight. Great characters, great book. It is as simple as that. The idea of a spy with lost memories, not knowing who he can trust is very appealing when written right and J.M. Erickson gets it right. I was intrigued as Alexander Burns step by painful step regains his memories. He becomes a very sympathetic and likable character when he realizes that he is two men now. There is the man before the accident and the man after the accident. There is something particularly poignant watching a character look at himself through brand new eyes and come to the conclusion that he doesn't like his old self and can't be that man anymore. If you love a little psychological insight along with your action story, you will love this book.


Albatross is a wonderfully absorbing, fast-paced story about a U.S. government agent by the name of Alexander Burns who was betrayed and seriously injured in a cover-up during a foreign military operation. His injuries involved memory loss to some extent and he now wishes to set the record straight while confronting the grueling task of regaining his memory and simultaneously facing down those who stand to lose much if he is successful in doing so.

It is a particularly timely novel, in this era of government secrets, spying, and international hostilities. It is also particularly chilling, as the plot is just real enough that while reading it, I often wondered “how easily could something like this actually happen?”

The main and secondary story lines move along briskly, holding the reader’s interest and carefully revealing details of the scenes, the characters’ thoughts, and the events that shape the action. So for this reason and because of the subject material, the story fits squarely in the genre of “action/thriller” and it would certainly be very easy to enjoy this novel in one long sitting. But that’s not to say that it is a “light” book purely for entertainment. It demands the reader’s attention, especially with regard to dialogue and the details and how they link to one another, and also to observing the characters’ psychological characteristics and growth, developed so well by the author who clearly drew on his professional experience in the field of psychology.

Long before the book ends, it is easy to find oneself drawn in to the characters, as their personalities, drives, and personal struggles - crafted so well and so thoroughly - slowly unfold. Alexander Burns and the three other main characters are an unlikely group of people thrown together and forced to focus on a common goal, while their equally unlikely relationships with one another take shape. There are no simplistic “good guys” and “bad guys” in this book, but rather just human beings, individually complex by nature as we all are, who are pulled into situations and forced to make the best of their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. The book does not end at a final ending point, but rather at a “breather” in the story, fortunately to be continued in book 2 of the series (Raven).

Christopher Ackerman-IP B

The Albatross, an image that appears in Samuel Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” represents the salvation of the soul; the free flight of a body no longer bound by the laws or limits of the human world. In his novel Albatross: Birds of Flight author J.M. Erickson uses this literary symbol to signify the life promised to the protagonists of the story if they will only ‘stay the course,’ and ride the rough waves of outward circumstance to the safe haven in the distance.

In Coleridge’s story a literal storm—one of vengeance emanating from the spirit of the fallen Albatross—arises to threaten the lives of those responsible for killing the bird of freedom. Similarly, the leading characters of Erickson’s narrative are being pursued and punished due to the death of innocent individuals. Although not shooting an albatross with an arrow (like the sailor in Coleridge’s poem), Alexander Burns has shot and killed countless people while employed as a field operative for the Department of Defense Foreign Intelligence Agency.

However, Burns is no longer the callous cold-blooded killer who once performed the government’s dirty work without asking questions. After undergoing an experimental form of psychotherapy with Dr. David Caulfield, the former government operative has developed a conscience and a keen sense of compassion. In addition, the therapeutic process has accomplished what his former employer feared the most: Burns has recovered from his temporary amnesia and remembered highly sensitive (and strictly classified) details regarding his past missions and the logistic weaknesses within the Defense Department.

Concerned that Burns has leaked top secret data, the Department targets all those who have come into contact with him of late. In a savage bombing, a special operations unit kills Dr. Caulfield’s family, leaving the doctor blinded by the explosion. And the nurse that introduced Burns to Caulfield is also being hunted because of her association with the former agent. Previously, as a government pawn, Burns would have simply escaped to a foreign country, assumed a new identity, and blended into the scenery – spending the rest of his days at large (in hiding). But now the lives of several people he cares for are in jeopardy due to his violent past.

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Burns wonders as he faces the possibility of killing those who are out to murder him. Clearly Burns is now somebody new; a man imbued with a profound spiritual perspective. Yet has his transformation into a compassionate human being made him vulnerable to his enemies? Or does he still possess the killer (survival) instinct necessary to beat the government at their own game, and thereby save the lives of his newfound friends? These are questions the author poses in the narrative; even as Burns and his friends execute their plan of attack against a hostile government agency.

In Albatross: Birds of Flight J.M. Erickson demonstrates a sharp understanding of both human nature and the interworking of government departments. Combining insights into criminal psychology with his knowledge of law enforcement, he has penned a realistic thriller replete with unexpected twists and cathartic turns. The story of Burn’s dramatic development—a physical-psychic journey that requires him to bear the symbolic (and slain) Albatross around his neck (until his deeds deliver him from this heavy burden)—reveals the extreme suffering and ecstatic joys a soul experiences on the road to redemption. I recommend this book to anyone who appreciates carefully crafted psychological thrillers.

Kirkus Review

Erickson’s debut novel explores personal development through love, explosions and terrorist plots.

From the book’s opening, two storylines take off: a terrorist plot to destabilize the U.S. government and a record of the key characters’ psychological development. Yet, in investigating the inner worlds, Erickson doesn’t sacrifice explosions and gunfire; instead, he peppers the action with psychological insight. Sam Coleridge (nee David Caulfield), Alexander Burns’ former therapist, tells most of the story from his point of view in the form of his confession to the police.
Coleridge’s specialty is “recovering memories and treatment of patients who suffered…from post-traumatic stress
disorder.” He insists that the treatments work “only if the patients really wanted…to” participate; Burns certainly wants to participate, since the recovery of his memories is crucial to his plan for revenge. The plan seems natural from Burns’ perspective: His former employers betrayed him and, ultimately, the nation. His skills return with the memories that motivate him, and he trains his team of civilians to help, teaching them “abilities of researching, acquisitions,
reconnaissance, planning, and improvising,” while he handles the business of violence. The series of events that lead to
Burns’ action is, at times, unclear, partially because of the intense focus on the characters and the nonlinear narrative. Erickson competently portrays the sometimes violent tactics, though it’s clear that his real interest lies in his characters’emotions and psychology.
Some rough plotting, but the solid action is driven by dense characters.

Blue Ink

Albatross: Birds of Flight has a spy-thriller premise familiar to fans of the Bourne franchise that will appeal to those who enjoy Mission Impossible and TV's Leverage. But author J.M. Erickson elevates the premise beyond the Bourne-again shtick with an interesting twist and taut, engaging writing that will keep even jaded readers hooked.
Erickson establishes the action quickly with an opening scene ending in a gunfight that results in the deaths of three government agents and leaves a mysterious witness, Samuel Coleridge (yes, like the poet). The opening pages are a jumble of characters and action, and many names won't register to the reader until 40 pages in, when their relationships are established in flashbacks during an interrogation of Coleridge.
The main players are Coleridge, a therapist who helped a client, Alexander Burns, regain his memory; Samantha Littleton, a prostitute who moonlights as a nurse; and Samantha's foster sister, Rebecca Littleton, who's left caring for her niece after her parents are killed.
Burns turns out to be a government assassin who survived his employers’ attempt to kill him, and when he regains his memory he becomes a target once again. The other three become entangled in the attempts to kill Burns and join him in a revenge plan.
The plot sounds a bit implausible, but Erickson rolls out his narrative with no-nonsense storytelling and no wasted words. It's easy to get caught up in the story without questioning the details, because we trust the characters – Erickson writes believable dialogue and creates logical bonds between them – and because the plot moves so fast we don’t have time to doubt them.
The conclusion is satisfying but leaves a couple of loose ends, explaining the "Book One" label on the cover. This could turn into a fun series.

Paige Lovitt, Reader View

The thriller, “Albatross: Birds of Flight,” by J.M. Erickson, begins when Anthony Maxwell, a senior field agent of the Department of Defense Foreign Intelligence’s Operation Center in Waltham, Massachusetts, is kidnapped and killed. At the same time this is happening, mayhem is occurring in the surrounding area. There are a series of coordinated attacks that threaten national security. At first the authorities suspect domestic terrorism, but as the evidence points them in the direction of Alex Burns, it appears that there is a lot more involved. Alex Burns, former international spy, now fugitive, is suspected of setting off a string of events that has the country shaken up. After having suffered from serious injuries on a secret mission, Alex was left with Trauma Induced Amnesia. Seeking treatment from therapist David Caulfield, Alex started piecing events back together and gained an understanding of why there are those in higher positions who prefer that he does not regain his memory.
Caulfield becomes more involved with helping Alex when he suffers a personal loss at the hands of those who are after Alex. Working together with two women, both men are determined to make sure that they can accomplish what they need to so that their futures will be safe. As the suspense is building, Police Lieutenant Steve Anderson becomes involved. Being a former military interrogator, he quickly realizes that there is a lot more going on, yet he has to decide which side he can trust. As events play out, he is privy to more information and the truth is fascinating, yet it is also devastating for the country.
“Albatross: Birds of Flight” by J.M. Erickson is a novel that readers who are fans of suspense will really enjoy. The characters are complex and multi-dimensional. They each have reasons for having personal issues, yet as they work together they also find healing, in spite of the extremely stressful circumstances that they are placed in. In addition to a great political thriller, there are also underlying themes of romance and redemption. These factors all add up to a very compelling, fast paced adventure.

Sam Ryan

Loved the intense, gritty, detailed nature of this novel. Didn’t as much love some of the dialogue, but in the end still a great book and I want to read more of the series to see what happens. The ending seemed pretty open and so be prepared to have the next book handy. Glad they are all published already. Nothing I hate more than waiting for a book to be released. Definitely some twists I didn’t see coming… some I did. There is some time jumping and the story frequently shifts from one character’s POV to another’s. Sometimes these transitions weren’t as clear as they could be, and a few times I found myself glancing back a few pages to refresh. But for the most part was pretty easy to follow and I liked the storyline. Could see this being a movie. Fans of military thrillers will enjoy it. Is worth a read. (4 stars). Sam Ryan- Indie Book Reviewers, Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, Barnes & Noble

Karen Matthew

I always love discovering a new author, so I take a lot of chances on unknowns. For the most part, many fade away into obscurity, quickly forgotten after I’ve finished their books, that is, if I even make it all the way through. So naturally I’m delighted when I come across one who exceeds my expectations and makes me feel like I’ve stumbled on a keeper! “Albatross: Birds of Flight” by J. M. Erickson isn’t the type of book I’d normally gravitate to, but I thought the premise looked interesting and the writing sample was promising. I was pulled in right away and impressed with the author’s ability to weave a dynamic plotline that was both unpredictable and compelling. There are many characters in this novel, and there is a handy mini-bio for each at the end. We see the story unravel through different perspectives, which always makes for an interesting formula. If I had one beef, it was the excessive use of italics and the characters’ ‘thoughts’ throughout. Personally I think it would have been much stronger narrative-wise had been done differently, and not as much. However, it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment and I’m eagerly looking forward to the next one in the series and am happy to have “discovered” J. M. Erickson! (5 stars). Karen Matthews- Indie Book Reviewers, Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, Barnes & Noble

Corey Baynan

I’m not one for recapping plots (that what the description is for), but I admit at first I thought maybe it would be kind of like “The Bourne Identity”, which wouldn’t be a bad thing because I loved that series! However, I found that while there may be some familiar elements to “Albatross”, the author J.M. Erickson delivers with a fresh style all his own. He does a great job of describing the actions and the scenes. Sometimes too good, as I didn’t think we needed to hear the characters inner thoughts so much. It did seem to slow the pacing down in some parts, and it takes away from the mystery, and sometimes I almost felt like I was reading two stories at the same time... For the most part the editing was solid, only few small things here and there (and the too-frequent use of italics), but all in all, it felt well-constructed and professionally executed. Mr. Erickson is obviously a gifted storyteller and I’m diving into the next book in the series right now. (4 stars). Corey Banyan- Indie Book Reviewers, Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, Barnes & Noble

Stacy Decker

A riveting read that I finished in the span of an afternoon and evening. It was so good, I couldn’t put it down until I reached the end. And when I finished, I immediately started in on the next one! The author has such an easy and engaging writing style, and I liked how we could see from different characters’ points of views and what they were thinking. There’s a ton of action and I like that the storyline is intelligent and complex enough to keep my attention from start to finish, but not so convoluted that I was ever confused or bored. I thought the characters were well done, and even though I wish I could actually picture what they looked like more (physically), I thought their personalities were pretty believable and fleshed out. I’d never read a story like this before and I can’t wait to read more from this author. I’ve already started in on the next one, “Raven”. Recommend to readers who enjoy well thought out and faced-paced thrillers. (5 stars). Stacy Decker- Indie Book Reviewers, Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, Barnes & Noble