The Puppet King

Fiction - Thriller - General
354 Pages
Reviewed on 09/09/2023
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Tanya was born and raised in New Jersey and moved to Chicago in 1990 to attend Columbia College and Roosevelt University, earning degrees in Television Production and Print Journalism. In 1994 and 1995, Tanya spent time overseas and traveled extensively through Germany, where the idea for this novel was birthed but shelved.

As a reporter, Tanya has published countless print articles from Chicago and its suburbs and later worked on-air in Pennsylvania and Kansas. In 2001, after a catastrophic illness, she left the reporter’s transient lifestyle and returned to Chicago to attend Moraine Valley Community College and Loyola University Chicago, where she graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s and later a master’s degree in nursing.

With the closures of 2020 caused by the COVID pandemic, Tanya resurrected her writing pursuits and finished producing her first novel earning multiple 5-Star reviews. These accolades add to the incentive to continue the second installment of this planned trilogy.

Currently working full-time as a nurse, in her spare time she spends weekends with her Shih-Tzu Moose. Tanya also likes to grab dinner with friends and binge-watch mind-bending shows on streaming platforms but maintains a comedy collection, seeing humor as the way through the most serious situations.

In books, she favors thrillers, but she also enjoys stories written with emotional movement and some purely to educate. In constant learning mode, she values education and writing and believes everybody has a story.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

The Puppet King by TM Kornelsen is an international thriller that plants its feet in a 'cause and effect' scenario over decades. As Western philosophy gained traction and the Soviet Empire disintegrated in 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall was met with mixed feelings, and Erich Strauss lost his position as general secretary of the Socialist United Party in East Germany. Cloistered in his Jena, Germany castle, Strauss plans a comeback with loyalists, bolstered by a mysterious figure offering assistance. While probing Germany's financial crisis, investigative journalist Gwen Patterson uncovers a network of conspirators and misappropriated assets connected to New York City and Washington, DC. As Gwen investigates, her mother's Cold War past resurfaces, intertwining her personal life with universal stakes, forcing Gwen to contend with a faltering global economy as she struggles with her allegiances.

I have always found that a plot where the antagonist plays the long game is the most believable, and TM Kornelsen is able to kick this element up further by showing, after such a stretch of time, what a person is willing to give another in order to make that long game finally pay off. The Puppet King is a fast-paced suspense novel with a smart, resourceful, and highly capable female lead that Kornelsen molds perfectly in the character of Gwen. The transitions of settings and the prose that links them realistically provide a true sense of place and time. "Germany settled down for dinner, but it was still early in New York and business was booming...” Of course, none of this would matter if the execution of a coup wasn't within the realms of possibility, something that Kornelsen effectively shakes up with an economy destabilized to the point where its population experiences such suffering that the revival of a monarchy feeds the social and political psychology. It's eerily reminiscent of an idea like making things great again and when the seizing of power by one at the cost of all is the only thing that matters. Very highly recommended.

Viga Boland

There’s no doubt about it, TM Kornelsen has written a blockbuster of a novel in The Puppet King. Take note of that title. Throughout this well-researched story, you might find yourself wondering how the “puppet” part of that title applies to a near-deranged, now deposed former General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party. Alone in his castle for over 30 years, Erich Strauss is determined to become not the next Hitler but King Strauss, and to achieve that goal, he has amassed a legion of followers committed to his success. But who is this hot-shot American journalist, Gwen Patterson, who is snooping around, and how has she discovered his nefarious plans? She must be dealt with pronto. Initially, Gwen had been sent to Germany by her boss Joe to investigate Germany’s escalating plunge into poverty. What should have been a simple bit of investigative reporting has turned lethal. When Gwen finally comes face to face with Strauss, both he and readers are shocked. But that’s not where this story ends.

TM Kornelsen combines the best elements of her training as a nurse and experience as a journalist in The Puppet King. She manages to incorporate her research seamlessly into the narrative in a way that never slows the pace of a plot so complex and riveting that readers find themselves rushing to turn the pages. As incredible as some of the characters seem, they are realistically rendered by the author. Dialogue is plentiful, the action is non-stop, and there’s one unexpected twist at the very end tied to the book’s title that will have you wondering if there’s a sequel in the works. I hope there is and I want to be first in line to read it. Brilliant writing.

Keith Mbuya

Everything seemed utterly wrong with the latest assignment undertaken by Gwen Patterson, America’s most beloved news reporter. It had been less than forty-eight hours, yet a congressman had died in a fatal car explosion, alleged to be an assassination. Elsewhere, violent student protests in Germany had left many dead, including the president. Gwen had narrowly survived death at the hands of a mercenary who wanted the information relating to her assignment. Gwen’s mission entailed investigating the cause of Germany’s worsening economic plight. Ignoring these red flags, Gwen went to Germany in pursuit of answers. She found herself treading a dangerous path that put her life on the line as she learned facts about herself and uncovered a conspiracy involving influential people in Washington D.C. and a long-forgotten German communist leader. Eric Strauss, the former leader of the German Democratic Republic, had just put into motion his plot to take over power and reclaim his former glory. He was willing to destroy anything that stood in his way, but did this include his own flesh and blood, the child he had sought for over thirty years? Get yourself TM Kornelsen’s The Puppet King to discover more.

Lovers of espionage thriller novels laden with conspiracy and crime will relish TM Kornelsen’s The Puppet King. Featuring a dynamic and exciting array of participants, Kornelsen spins a tangled web of mystery, featuring a gripping tale of spicy romance, love, blackmail, death threats, murder, money, corruption, power, politics, secrets, espionage, assassins, mercenaries, and diplomats. The colorful and evocative descriptions capture the mood and settings. It felt like I was right in the middle of every scene, watching it unfold. One moment I was eavesdropping on Eric Strauss’ secret meetings, as he pieced together his diabolical plan for Germany’s future. The next thing I knew I would be staring in horror as Gwen was assaulted by a “random” taxi passenger in the middle of traffic. The ingenious plot twists kept me on the edge of my seat. Gwen was a daring, undaunted, fierce reporter whose intelligence was only equaled by her incredible knack for solving mysteries. I loved The Puppet King, and it’s a magnificent piece of work.

Asher Syed

The Puppet King by TM Kornelsen sets itself up at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when Margaret Stratton, the fiancée of East Germany's last General Secretary, flees without her son. In 2020, Erich Strauss, a former East German leader, plots a comeback, revealing Margaret's secret child. Martin, Strauss's son, agrees to help find his brother. On a German assignment, reporter Gwen Patterson meets contact Rocco, and the pair uncover Strauss's involvement in arms deals and weapons bunkers. A van bomb narrowly misses Gwen's investigative news crew, but she presses on with plans to interview the chancellor's son. It goes horribly awry, Gwen is arrested and a tragic loss points to an even greater conspiracy. Worse still, what Gwen finds in a Bad Düben bunker reveals an unthinkable family tie.

The Puppet King by TM Kornelsen effectively creates tension and savvy intrigue with a constant flow of life-threatening and life-altering plots and subplots. Gwen and everyone around her, including her husband who is nowhere near her, are cloaked in a perpetual sense of danger that permeates the narrative. Nobody is safe as Gwen climbs the conspiracy ladder but Kornelsen keeps readers guessing on every rung, especially as the ranks close around her personally and professionally. Kornelsen hints at a connection with Gwen's mother but it still surprises when we learn more. I did not grow up in the West so my knowledge of Germany's communist history is muddled, but the story takes place in contemporary Germany and Kornelsen made me feel at home there, minus the assassination attempts and secret bunkers. Excellent suspense, mystery, and literary fiction.

K.C. Finn

The Puppet King is a work of fiction in the thriller, conspiracy, and action subgenres penned by author TM Kornelsen. It is best suited to adult readers. This gripping thriller perfectly blends political intrigue, espionage, and personal drama as we explore the world of Gwen Patterson, a TV news correspondent sent to Germany to investigate the growing turmoil in the country. What starts as a routine assignment quickly turns into a dangerous and complex web of conspiracies. There’s tension right from the very beginning when Gwen is chased through the streets of New York after discovering an encrypted thumb drive that sets her on a path filled with danger and intrigue.

Author TM Kornelsen has crafted a thrilling, high-octane storyline with a particular strength in its well-drawn, emotionally realistic characters. Gwen is a strong and relatable protagonist, and her interactions with her ad hoc film team are smoothly penned to convey the plot but also give us plenty of her bold personality. The narrative is rich in detail, painting a vivid picture of the locations and situations Gwen finds herself in, and as it all unfolds, secrets from Gwen's own family history come to light for even more depth and emotional realism. The pacing is excellent, with each chapter leaving you eager to find out what happens next and sparking a thought-provoking exploration of power, corruption, and the lengths to which people will go to achieve their ambitions. Overall, if you enjoy political thrillers with well-drawn characters and a captivating plot, then The Puppet King will deliver everything you’re looking for.