Raven: Birds of Flight

Book 2

Fiction - Thriller - Terrorist
366 Pages
Reviewed on 01/13/2013
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 Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite

Alex Burns aka Falcon 5, is the type of operative you want on your side. He is the head of the Foreign Intelligence Agency and a group of operatives considered renegades. Burns has many enemies that would love to see him dead. Burns and his team have several stolen classified files that they are attempting to exchange for a peaceful life. They just want to be left alone. In an attempt to turn the documents over to the FBI Burns and his team come under attack. If the documents fall into the wrong hands the world as we know it will be destabilized.

Fans of Albatross will be thrilled to be reunited with their favorite operative, Alex Burns in this fast paced sequel, “Raven, Birds of Flight: Book Two.” Author J.M. Erickson brings readers a complex plot in his latest psychological thriller. I find it incredible the way Erickson managed to have high action from beginning to end and yet the suspense builds to a crescendo. This book stands well alone although it is the second book in this series. The plot has great depth making this a book you won’t want to rush through. There are more twists and turns than a pretzel. The actual events mentioned in this tale give the plot a feel of realism. Often character driven plots fall short of expectations but not In “Raven, Birds of Flight: Book Two.” This book not only meets expectations but surpasses expectations. Fans of thrillers will not want to miss this one.

Alice DiNizo

Alex Burns, skilled field operative for the newly created Foreign Intelligence Agency, is known to his superiors as Falcon 5. Terrorists are planning coordinated attacks during rush hour when many people will be in one place. It is known that these attacks will be staged at Paris' Eiffel Tower, Heathrow Airport near London, and both the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge in the United States. Burns stops the attack at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco but violence ensues. At the same time, on the other side of the world in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, Marine Warrant Officer Diane Welch is on guard with her group of fourteen sniper/surveillance and combat support marines. Her men, including "Ice", an Ojibwe Native American who shares his prophetic dreams with Diane, are ready to free the women and children hostages of a small village and then move in to kill enemy forces and liberate the cache of weapons. Instead, the FIA middle manager Thomas Webber is near Diane's location and has his forces totally destroy the village, hostages and all. Webber then abandons Diane and her marines. Meanwhile, Burns has become a rogue agent and his beloved Samantha is killed just as she meets with government agents. But the FBI and local law enforcement were not the assassins. All signs point to Thomas Webber. Could Webber have an agenda of his own?

"Raven, Birds of Flight: Book Two" is a thriller whose complex and slowly unfolding plot will delight readers of that genre. There are many characters such as Alex Burns, Diane Welch, Denise Cratty, and David Caulfield all of whom contribute to the depth of plot and the overall effect of the novel.

Maria Beltran

Alexander J. Burns is the leader of an outcast team of government counter terrorists. They have in their possession stolen and highly classified government records with contents that can destabilize the whole world. Accepting an offer from the FBI to return the documents in exchange for amnesty, Burns and his team come under attack, after the first attempt at exchange was bungled by the intelligence agency. The FBI then creates a squad to bring Burns back in the fold and at about the same time covert operations are being staged by the US against their enemies as well as allies in Europe and America. His former superiors at the Foreign Intelligence Agency want to eliminate Burns and he is now considered as a terrorist. With his back against the wall, Burns is forced to do things that may result in serious repercussions all over the world.

J. M. Erickson's novel "Raven: Birds of Flight" is an action-packed story that deals with betrayal within the US government's anti terrorist agencies. This novel is actually a continuation of his earlier novel "Albatross" of the 'Birds of Flight Series'. "Raven" is fast-paced and character-driven, resulting in an exhilarating read. It is also a psychological thriller and gives us an insight into how these trained anti terrorist agents think and act when they are under extreme conditions. Faced with what seems like an impossible situation, the lead character Alexander J. Burns is also confronted with a moral dilemma. Enjoyable and thrilling, this is one of those books that I want to finish reading in one sitting. Its extremely fast pace makes it even more interesting and gives me the feeling of being in Burns's shoes. It is also evident that the author has done his research on how these agencies operate. In a world where terrorism has become a common occurrence, this book will be relevant for all of us.

Kathryn Bennett

In "Raven" J.M Erickson has created a sequel to "Albatross" and reunites the reader with one of their favorite characters Alexander J. Burns. Alexander was instrumental in taking down the agency he used to work for, leaving a lot of people that would love nothing less than Alexander’s death. Some of the people he used to work with want to negotiate for some top secret files. While living off the grid Alexander manages to arrange a deal with the FBI; he will give them the information in exchange for him and his team being able to live in peace with no charges filed. Of course nothing goes according to plan. The FBI flubbed up the meeting and Alexander’s old bosses would like nothing more than to see him dead! The information being made public does affect the US. Alexander was taking hits from all sides. Alexander must make a choice. So what will it be?

I did not read the first book in this series "Albatross: Birds of Flight"; however, I was still able to quickly grasp the concept of this book and like the characters. J.M Erickson weaves the details you need to know to feel connected to the characters into the new story while not bogging it down too much. That makes "Raven" able to be a stand alone book if, like me, you haven’t read the first or a fast moving sequel. The deepness of the plot that J.M Erickson has written is almost mind boggling. I did find myself at times feeling a little bit overwhelmed by the plot itself. The twists are so cleverly executed that I had to read a few passages twice to keep up with the flow. However, that did not take away from the overall enjoyment of the book. I enjoy a book that makes me use my brain and puzzle out some of the pieces. If you like a book that is going to keep you on your toes, move fast and take you on a ride, this is a great one for you. I plan to go back and read the first book in the series so that I can have a fuller understanding of "Raven" as well. This really is a fast-paced thrilling book that is likely to get your heart racing with its action.

Gayani Hathurusingha

Is it reasonable to call a man a terrorist for desiring to be left alone, to live his life peacefully? J.M.Erickson explores this question in his thriller "Raven: Birds of Flight". The book is a sequel to "Albatross", the first book of the 'Birds of Flight series'. Set in modern USA, the novel focuses on the life of Alexander J. Burns, a life far from easy. Identified by the FBI as a terrorist because of his attempt to negotiate a peaceful life for him and his friends in exchange for stolen classified records, Alexander J. Burns's character enables the reader to analyze the conscience of a so-called terrorist at close quarters.

The writer refers to true-to-life events, contributing to the realism of the story in its descriptions of Military Intelligence strategies, ambushes and the realities of intellectual terrorism. This novel is more character-driven than plot-oriented. It manifests the urge to live, to change and to gain peace in a chaotic world. "Raven: Birds of Flight" is a thriller with mounting tension and by any standard, a pleasurable reading experience for the fans of the genre.

Kirkus Review

This fast-paced second book in Erickson’s Birds of Flight series continues the story of fugitive Alexander Burns and his
After stealing classified government information from the Department of Defense Foreign Intelligence Agency, Burns
and his team have been on the run for years. As the book opens, they decide to negotiate with law enforcement officials
for their safety, but their careful plans go awry, and Samantha, the woman Burns loves, is killed. Burns instructs her
sister Becky to inform their FBI contact that “the ‘dead man switch’ has been pulled….‘The flood is coming.’ ” He then
embarks on a mission of vengeance that could have repercussions for every American. He and his team risk their lives to
release classified data on the controversial actions of the Foreign Intelligence Agency, which causes a diplomatic crisis.
The team wants its freedom, and it’s willing to take down the whole country to get it. It finds unexpected allies within
the government; one government operative says that Burns “has been consistent with loyalty to friends….Even when his
paramour is killed, he keeps his word to those who keep it with him.” Erickson depicts government agents, spies and
rogue operatives as well-rounded characters with discernible inner lives. The novel improves on 2012’s Albatross, the
first book in this series, in Erickson’s ability to handle a somewhat convoluted plot without losing the reader. There are
just as many explosions and gunfights here, but the overall mood of the work is tenser, and less triumphant, as Burns and
his family risk not only their freedom, but their lives.
An ambitious thriller that looks at the gray areas between vengeance and justice, law and morality.

Christopher Ackerman-IP B

In J.M. Erickson’s debut novel entitled Albatross: Birds of Flight he told the story of Alex Burns, a former federal agent—and killing machine—who, following a serious head injury, underwent an extreme form of psychoanalysis; through which he came to experience human emotions hitherto unknown to him. It was a “recovery” that spelled disaster for the United States Government, which feared that the new, compassionate Burns would disclose damnatory information regarding its involvement in illegal missions. By the end of the novel Burns and his small team of civilians (turned soldiers) manage to double-cross the government and escape capture and death. Yet they are by no means free to live normal lives. In the sequel story, Raven: Birds of Flight, Burns and his team of specially trained friends fight to gain their freedom—and loose themselves from the government’s grip—once and for all.

The narrative begins with a flashback to a time when Burns was working for the Foreign Intelligence Agency. Then the author skips ahead in time, introducing the readers to Marine Officer Diane Welch: who is in Pakistan attempting to protect civilians and her men from insurgents and (ironically) her commanding officer. In a demonstration of negligence and narcissism, FIA Commander James Webber signals for an entire village to be wiped out in a drone attack; reasoning that American victory is more valuable than a few innocent victims. After witnessing this gratuitous murder of Marines and Pakistanis—and the extent of Webber’s callous cruelty—Diane Welch is devastated: vowing to one day ‘right this wrong’ and exact vengeance on the loathsome commander.

After setting the stage with these initial stories, the author reintroduces the star characters of the Albatross novel. Alexander Burns (now working with his civilian unit) has agreed to provide the government with the second of three hard disc-drives containing classified military material. By willingly returning this drive, which he has used as leverage against the government—thereby preserving his life and the lives of his friends—Burns is demonstrating his desire to put an end to his life on the run and his reputation as an “enemy of the state.” At this point in the narrative we witness a botched operation; and watch as this ‘good-will’ exchange is undermined by the unannounced presence of Webber and his Foreign Intelligence Agency unit.

By page ninety of the novel, Commander James Webber has managed to sabotage two separate military operations, ‘stepping on the feet’ of other government agencies and causing unnecessary casualties: including the death of Burn’s beloved girlfriend Samantha Littleton. As a result of his reckless actions, Webber has also made two very dangerous enemies: Diane Welch and Alexander Burns. Flooding the internet with classified government data, Alexander Burns unleashes the dogs of war, committed to avenging the death of his lost soldier (and closest companion) and securing the safety of his remaining team members.

Following the novel Albatross: Birds of Flight, I anticipated the continuing story of Burns and his team. Alex’s psychological development, and his burgeoning relationship with Samantha—professional call girl/nurse turned trained assassin—promised to be an enriching relationship, and an essential part of the sequel. For this reason I was somewhat disorientated for the first few chapters of the novel, wondering why the author was delving into Burn’s past missions as a federal agent or introducing an entirely new story (with Diane Welch). In my mind these were unnecessary complications and deviations from the strong storyline of the first book. Finally, with the emergence of Burns and his team (on page forty-eight) I was able to find the thread tying these preliminary stories to the characters—and plot—established in the original novel.

Once underway, despite my initial sense of disappointment (due perhaps to personal expectations), Raven: Birds of Flight proved to be an exhilarating thrill-ride filled with exciting action scenes and dramatic plot developments. The literary suggestiveness of ‘the raven’—dark harbinger of death, and also Celtic symbol of inspiration for soldiers fallen in battle—is exemplified in the female agents of the novel: each of which secretly empathizes and identifies with Alexander Burns and his cause; as they, at the same time, work in unison to prevent him from doing anymore damage to the American government.

As in the first work, J.M. Erickson’s writing style is exact and linguistically flawless. The author also does an amazing job of crafting believable, witty dialogue. In addition, he subtly builds the suspense to a breaking point, creating a climactic scene that is both aesthetically rewarding and realistic. With the conclusion of the novel, questions are left unanswered; which the author will address in the next section of this...

L.A. Webb, US Review of B

"He wants vengeance."

The Foreign Intelligence Agency, "the brain child of the Department of Defense," is less than forthcoming about their operations scattered throughout the world. It's a clandestine counter-intelligence wing that kills its enemies without hesitation while operating under a veil of secrecy. That is until former agent Alexander Burns seeks vengeance.

Burns is out in the cold, a rogue agent wanted by the government after stealing top-secret files about the agency's activities. Working with the FBI, Burns and his girlfriend, Samantha Littleton, agree to return the files. Everything goes as planned until Thomas Webber, a Foreign Intelligence Agency operative, kills Samantha during the exchange. Burns is determined to avenge her death and destroy those responsible.

With the help of her family, Burns begins releasing a slow, but dangerous, trickle of classified files that sully America's reputation around the world. Long-standing alliances are shattered as the agency's manipulative and deadly tactics are revealed. It becomes a race against time to stem the flood of information and bring Burns in alive.

Erickson has created a taunt suspenseful thriller sure to entice fans of Clancy, Flynn, and Ludlum. Intertwining current events from across the globe brings a sense of realism to the plot. His characters are not one-dimensional. They are well developed, making the reader pause and consider the true motivation behind Burn's actions. The novel is part of the Birds of Flight series, but reading Book One first is not absolutely necessary. Readers will want too, but flashbacks build in the gaps to make this one enjoyable read. The good news is a third novel looks to be in the works to tie up those pesky loose ends.


Sam Ryan

Great second book. Had many of the same elements of the first that I liked, and not as many of the things I didn’t. I like reading stories where operatives take on corrupt government and go rogue to take their revenge, matching wits and battling foes stronger and smarter, yet saving the day. It’s a great formula and when done well makes for great reading. The author does well of showing the events of the book (as opposed to telling) and we feel like we are in the thick of the action throughout. There were some minor proofing mistakes, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment any. Great tension, conflict, and nonstop action, shocking and sad twists. Reels you in at the beginning and holds you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the end… and even then it’s so open ended, you need to start the next book right away, which I did! (4 stars). Sam Ryan- Indie Book Reviewers, Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, Barnes & Noble

Karen Matthew

I was really excited to read this book, “Raven: Birds of Flight part 2” as I so enjoyed the first one in the series, “Albatross”. I do not recommend these books as standalones and suggest reading the first one prior to this. Not that it CAN’T be done, as you can still follow along, it’s just some things might be confusing. That said, I think I enjoyed this one almost more than the first! I feel like the author really hit his stride pacing and plot-development wise, and while there was still the annoying use of the italics for all the inner thoughts of the characters, it didn’t bother me as much this time. I liked watching the plot unfold in ways I wasn’t expecting, and the action is almost nonstop. You cannot be bored for a second reading this, and if your anything like me you’ll be starting the third one only minutes after finishing this one. If you like fast paced action packed spy/political thrillers, then this series is not to be missed. (5 stars). Karen Matthews- Indie Book Reviewers, Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, Barnes & Noble

Corey Baynan

“Raven: Birds of Flight” is the second book I’ve read from this author now in this series, and I think it is continuing to get better and better. This book had all the intensity and drama of the first, and in a way it reminds me of a cross between “Bourne Identity” and “24” and a Jack Ryan novel, but still very original. Very exciting to read and lots of plotlines being woven together building up tension as it goes along. Like the first one, while I very much enjoyed the actual story and the characters, I thought the mechanics could use a bit fine tuning, as there were some editing things (minor), and the overuse characters saying the other characters names in dialogue (sounded unnatural) and definitely needed more pronoun use in general for a smoother read. But still a great book and now I need the third one because I need to see what will happen next! Highly recommend. (4 stars). Corey Banyan- Indie Book Reviewers, Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, Barnes & Noble

Stacy Decker

A worthy continuation of the Birds of Flight Series, “Raven” wastes no time jumping right into the drama and picking up the storyline from the first book, “Albatross”. I recommend reading the first one before this as there are things that might be confusing otherwise. Like the first one, I devoured this one in about a day (okay, two), and was completely enraptured in the high-stakes world of espionage and government corruption. I was already used to the author’s writing style from reading the first book, and had many of the characters formed in my mind. But this book stretched the imagination and went even further, and with lots of unpredictable twists. I really am enjoying this series and am ready for the next one now, especially with the cliffhanger ending! (5 stars) Stacy Decker- Indie Book Reviewers, Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, Barnes & Noble