By:  Pat Austin

ishmaelSHREVEPORT — The summer reading season is almost upon us and it’s time to assemble your vacation reading stack.  If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to make a suggestion.  If you haven’t read Michael Henry’s books you need to add them to your list.

Author Michael Henry has his own wonderful style and a gift of the ability to create memorable ad quirky characters, but if you asked me to compare his writing to anyone on the market today I’d have to say he’s a cross between John Grisham and Michael Connelly.  Maybe some James Lee Burke, too.  His latest novel is reminiscent of John Ludlum or Dan Brown.  Well, with all that, let’s just say Mr. Henry has his own style which is reminiscent of some other really great authors!

Mr. Henry’s latest novel, Finding Ishmael, might be his best one yet.  I first started reading his books in 2010 with Three Bad Years (which remains my personal favorite) and I eagerly anticipated his next novel as soon as I finish reading one.  So far there have been seven!  (If you haven’t been reading him this means you have missed seven great novels!  There’s your summer reading right there!)

In Finding Ishmael we meet oilman Liam Connors who receives a mysterious letter from long lost fried Ike Palmer.  Ike, now in Jerusalem, says he has found an ancient document that will turn the political and religious landscape of the world upside down.  Ike, who says he’s had the document authenticated, needs Liam’s help to keep the document safe as he is under surveillance and, well, a little paranoid.  The document concerns Islam’s historic claim to the Promised Land through Ishmael, thus the title.  Of course Liam and his girlfriend Mimi get on a plane to see Ike although Mimi has some very real concerns.  Things unfold rapidly from there and that’s as much of the plot I will give you, but suffice to say, it’s an incredibly topical book right now and very intriguing.  Don’t start the book if you have something pressing to do because you won’t be able to put it down.

With Finding Ishmael, Mr. Henry deviates a bit from his first novels which are legal thrillers.  As a former DA in Natchitoches, Louisiana, Mr. Henry has the background for writing excellent courtroom drama.  He is also highly skilled in constructing dialogue and characters; many times I have found myself with the feeling that I know these characters personally.

Finding Ishmael is the first of Mr. Henry’s novels not set in the south; most of this novel takes place in Jerusalem and the characters are all well drawn and memorable.  Ike Palmer is as bizarre as any character you will find anywhere.  In Jerusalem, Liam is aided by an aide of Ike’s, Menachem, and the dialogue between Menachem and Liam is always engaging and often funny.  As the novel approaches its climax, the book is just impossible to put down.

While Mr. Henry has written six other books before and there are recurring characters in each, this novel can stand completely alone as it is the first that introduces Liam and Mimi.  The Willie Mitchell Banks series should probably be read in order, but that may just be my own particular fetish.

The subject matter of Mr. Henry’s latest book could not be more relevant to today’s headlines as the Middle East is in turmoil and our Secretary of State John Kerry continues to blunder and mismanage relations there.

I recommend starting with Finding Ishmael (because it’s so topical right now), and then go back to Three Bad Years and read through the rest.  Take it from an avid reader – you will not be sorry.  All the books are available either in paperback through Amazon or on Kindle.

Perfect summer reading!

 Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.