Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Eighth Sister" by Robert Dugoni, Served with a Recipe for Smoky Eggplant Spread, Marbled Rye Toasts & Pickled Veggies

I can't believe how quickly this week has flown by, and that it's is already Thursday. Just one more day until the weekend can begin. If you are looking for a suspenseful weekend read, try the latest Robert Dugoni book, The Eighth Sister. I'm reviewing it as today's stop on the TLC Book Tour and I am pairing my review with a recipe for a Smoky Eggplant Spread, accompanied by toasted marble rye and pickled vegetables, and inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

A pulse-pounding thriller of espionage, spy games, and treachery by the New York Times bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series.

Former CIA case officer Charles Jenkins is a man at a crossroads: in his early sixties, he has a family, a new baby on the way, and a security consulting business on the brink of bankruptcy. Then his former bureau chief shows up at his house with a risky new assignment: travel undercover to Moscow and locate a Russian agent believed to be killing members of a clandestine US spy cell known as the seven sisters.
Desperate for money, Jenkins agrees to the mission and heads to the Russian capital. But when he finds the mastermind agent behind the assassinations—the so-called eighth sister—she is not who or what he was led to believe. Then again, neither is anyone else in this deadly game of cat and mouse.
Pursued by a dogged Russian intelligence officer, Jenkins executes a daring escape across the Black Sea, only to find himself abandoned by the agency he serves. With his family and freedom at risk, Jenkins is in the fight of his life—against his own country.

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (April 9, 2019)

My Review:

I am a huge fan of Robert Dugoni's Tracy Crosswhite series and feel like I am often anxiously awaiting the newest one. I hadn't ventured into Dugoni's other books because of my over-full TBR lis, but when I heard this was the start of a new series, I quickly jumped on the tour. Me being me and me being very anal retentive about reading series books in order, I was bit dismayed to learn that Charlies Jenkins, the main character in The Eighth Sister, is a secondary character in the author's David Sloane series. I think that there is enough explanation of the relationship in this book that you don't need to have read the David Sloan books first, but dogonnit, Dugoni made me curious, and now I want to and thus the TBR pile grows again ;-)

Charlie Jenkins is ex-CIA and living in Washington with his younger wife, young son, and a baby on the way. Disillusioned by his service to his country and how it ended, he is running a security firm with his wife when his old bureau chief tracks him down and asks him to reactivate and go undercover in Russia to find the leak behind a very secret spy ring known as the Seven Sisters, before more of these undercover agents are killed. Charlie doesn't want the assignment but his business is going under and he needs the money. so he heads to Moscow. Things do not go well and soon he is fighting to get out of Russia and to clear his name. 

Dugoni does an excellent job of building the pace and suspense throughout the story. making it a fast read for a thick book, as I didn't want to put it down and may have chewed down a couple of fingernails. I don't generally choose spy novels to read but i liked the way The Eighth Sister was both a spy thriller and a legal thriller with both the scenes in the filed and the courtroom scenes equally gripping. Charlie Jenkins is a great character, as were the supporting characters--his wife Alex, son CJ and the aforementioned David Sloane, and I look forward to spending more time with them in future books. I find Russia fairly fascinating and Dugoni's afterword about his inspiration for the book including a trip he made to Russia with his family in 1998 and some of their experiences was an interesting read as well. If you have not read Dugoni, you can't go wrong with either his Tracy Crosswhite books or this new series and I have a feeling his other books are equally as well done. (I'll let you know!)


Author Notes: Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series, which has sold more than 4 million books worldwide. He is also the author of the bestselling David Sloane Series; the stand-alone novels The 7th CanonDamage Control, and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, for which he won an AudioFile Earphones Award for the narration; and the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction and the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel set in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two-time finalist for the International Thriller Award, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, the Silver Falchion Award for mystery, and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award. His books are sold in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages.

Connect with Robert on his website, Facebook and Twitter.


Food Inspiration

There is so much action in this book and Charlie has little time to eat, but there were a few food mentions like pastries and veal with onions, junk food--chips, donuts, candy, granola bars, crackers, cheese, juice and chocolate bars, strong Turkish coffee, lamb with rice, scrambled eggs with onions and pepper and bread, cinnamon rolls, Thai food--chicken pad Thai, tom yum soup, and phat khing, and homemade tacos. 

There is one scene where Jenkins is meeting with his Russian contact Federov and they share a plate of appetizers at a restaurant:

"The man set a plate of appetizers on the table. speaking while gesturing. 'Rye bread bruschetta with eggplant spread. marinated mushrooms, and pickled vegetables. Naslazhdat'sya.'

Federov picked up a piece of the bruschetta and spread the eggplant with a butter knife. 'Please,' he said, gesturing to Jenkins. 'You will enjoy.' 

Jenkins chose the bruschetta and spread, mimicking whatever Federov ate."

There were marinated mushrooms mentioned and of course vodka. So I decided to make my book-inspired dish as a nod to the appetizer plate and especially the eggplant spread. 

When I looked up Russian eggplant spread, I found many recipes for it, often called Baklazhannaia Ikra (poor man’s caviar) or eggplant caviar. The recipes varied slightly in ingredients and sometimes spices and i ended up going with one of the simplest--just eggplant, onion and tomato paste with oil, salt and pepper. The flavor comes more from the roasting of the eggplant and the caramelizing of the onions.

Smoky Eggplant Spread
From Emily Han, via
(makes about 4 cups

2 large eggplant (about 1 lb each)
olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
about 6z/3/4 cup tomato paste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prick the eggplants all over with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in the center of the oven, turning over once, until soft, about 1 hour.

Let the eggplants cool in a colander in the sink, where their juices can drain. When cool enough to handle, press any excess liquid out. (This step helps to reduce any bitterness.)
Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 20 minutes.

Cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the flesh. Discard the peel. Using a large knife, chop the flesh very finely. (Avoid using a food processor, as you want the eggplant to be more textured than a purée.)

Add the eggplant to the onions along with the tomato paste, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a couple good cracks of black pepper. Turn the heat to low-medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes. Add more oil as necessary to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan. (Be liberal with the oil; any excess will rise to the top as the mixture cools, and you can remove it then, if you wish.)

Transfer the mixture to a heat-proof bowl and let it cool completely before storing in the refrigerator. Adjust salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Notes/Results: With so few ingredients, I was surprised just how flavorful this eggplant spread was--and how good. Slightly smoky, and a bit sweet from the onion, it was really good hot, warm and cold and I think it will make a fabulous sandwich spread. I served mine on marbled rye toast points and with a small assortment of pickled and marinated veggies from the olive bar at my local grocery store (including some very spicy marinated mushrooms), which made a nice contrast to the eggplant spread. I will happily make this spread again.

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Eighth Sister" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



  1. I need to try this eggplant recipe :) Sounds delicious!

  2. There's a whole continuum of eggplant spreads and purees -- from Middle Eastern, Turkish, and Greek (the baba ganoush family) to this eggplant caviar. All of them are great! The rye bread was a good touch.

    best... mae at

  3. I'm going to give this one a go. Cheers

  4. My dad is a HUGE fan of spy novels so he's going to absolutely love this one. Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours

  5. That eggplant spread looks so delicious and easy to make.

  6. I love eggplant and this looks really good. In the summer I grill the eggplant (whole) so I don't have to heat up the kitchen.


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