Pretense Reviews by Book Critics

PRETENSE, the first book in the political suspense thriller Imbroglio Trilogy, is the perfect summer vacation read. In hard and soft cover, large print, and all popular e-reader formats as well as a fully dramatized audiobook. PRETENSE is available worldwide through local bookstores as well as major online outlets, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powells, Books-A-Million, and others.

What the Book Critics are saying about PRETENSE:

NOTE: Plot description portions of reviews which reveal too much are not included, so as not to spoil the reader’s enjoyment. Not all Review Rating Organizations utilize the Star rating system.


Book Review by Joe Kilgore

“He followed the target, moving the weapon imperceptibly…the range so close that the bullet struck before he had even fully eased the trigger back to its rest position.”

Exotic locales, posh accommodations, handsome men and gorgeous women engaged in dangerous, often lethal behavior—these are things that often lure readers to international thrillers. Add plots that twist, agendas that may not be what they seem, plus revelations that shock—and voila, the genre’s literary cake is baked! Fortunately, this novel is loaded with all of the above.

The time is now, the setting is Europe, and the opening salvo is a political assassination. In Bratislava, a couple who personify the sobriquet “beautiful people” are involved up to their enticing eyeballs. Suddenly, you’re off to Warsaw, where a ruthless German marksman unleashes havoc at a sold-out soccer stadium. An intrepid Interpol agent leads a team of Polish intelligence and security personnel to find out if the events are coincidental or something far more sinister. Then an American CIA operative intervenes, a manhunt ensues, and everyone (characters plus readers alike) begin to question what is really going on.

This author’s first foray into fiction is an impressive beginning. His tale takes off swiftly. He keeps the pace of his yarn rapid but not too fast to hamper comprehension. While some characters initially come across as stereotypical, uniqueness begins to evolve as time spent with them increases. Authenticity and credibility shine. His technical mastery of weaponry, organizations, and processes has the feel of a Tom Clancy deep dive. His depictions of haute hotels, photogenic scenery, and foreigners and foreign places put one in mind of Robert Ludlum’s world. This is the first book in a trilogy. If the next two are as engaging as this one, score this author three for three.


Review Rating: (Authors Reading does not utilize the Star rating system)
Author John Di Frances steps out of his comfort zone as an author of business books to write the first in a series of suspense thrillers making up the Imbroglio Trilogy. With his first attempt at writing fiction, Di Frances sets himself apart as an author who has mastered two different genres.
Pretense introduces the reader to a cast of characters, each unique and key to the plot of the story. The suspense and action will cause you to fly through the pages on the edge of your seat. This is certainly an easy read as the action and storyline flow smoothly. Add this one to your list of “must reads.

Book Viral

A dark cloud hangs over Europe after the brutal murders of two heads of state just days apart. Growing civil unrest erupts across major cities as protests grow, threatening the stability of national governments. Tasked with finding the perpetrators, federal police of several countries combine forces with Interpol. A tense game of ‘cat and mouse’ is soon underway as the violence escalates. One fact quickly becomes obvious; behind the political assassinations lies a diabolical plot which appears to stretch westward to the United States, implicating the CIA. But do the facts reflect reality or is there yet a more sinister unseen force working behind the scenes to destabilize Europe and NATO. The team of investigators led by Interpol’s Marek Frakas, ‘The Wolf’ moves quickly to track the perpetrators and uncover the identity of the unseen mastermind behind the conspiracy. This cadre includes the lovely Adrianna, a young forensic weapons expert who can hold her own on the male-dominated international team of investigators. Together they seek to understand reality versus the shattered mirror-like reflections meant to obfuscate the truth and shroud the mastermind’s identity and ultimate purpose.

Our Review……

For readers who are fans of geopolitical thrillers that make them think and have that psychological twist to them, the ones that you have to go back and read again Pretense is going to prove a genuine gem of a find. The thriller equivalent of a wolf in sheep’s clothing John Di Frances hits all of the notes that you’d expect from this genre whilst bringing a fresh twist to established tropes. With prose that is sharp and concise he gives his readers all the information they need with an impressive eye for detail, the different characters involved, captures the thrill of the chase then pulls the rug from under your feet in a way that only seems obvious with hindsight. Plot-driven he skillfully and deceptively edges his readers forwards as momentum continues to build whilst painting an international backdrop that is bristling with intrigue and authenticity.  As the genre dictates there is clandestine evil at the heart of Pretense. Manipulating events on an international stage, faceless and elusive it’s testing the resolve of the international security services but it’s often the insight of a select few that make the difference and here it is Interpol’s Marek Frakas who along with his intrepid team makes for superb character dynamics.

With a debut novel like Pretense, John Di Francis will soon be nipping at the heels of such masters as David Baldacci and Tom Clancy and it is recommended without reservation.

Best Sellers World

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Pretense by John Di Frances is a gripping thriller set on the backdrop of our current political turmoil. This first book of the Imbroglio Trilogy prepares the stage for the reader by offering generous descriptions on multiple levels from a rather personal presentation of the main characters to a peek into international relations and affairs. However, this does not imply the least bit that the novel is dominated by descriptions since in reality, it is quite action-packed.  So, the reader is offered a front row seat by the author to a series of assassinations and also an international manhunt.

The story is presented on two main fronts; on one side we have a group of assassins, while on the other, an international team of special investigators. In this sense, the reader is truly privileged, since he can glimpse into both sides. It all starts in Bratislava with an apparently lazy day of a glamorous American couple. However, a drastic turn of events soon takes place. The Slovakian Prime Minister dies in a car explosion and he is only the first victim. Shortly after, the Prime Minister of Poland is assassinated while watching a game in a crowded football stadium. While the modus operandi differs greatly, the setting and also the method to murder are all very different.  Still, there seems to be a common thread connecting these incidents.

What is noteworthy in John Di Frances’ approach is that although it should be clear according to moral standards which group of people represents the good, and which the evil, the lines appear to be blurred. Readers can easily find themselves intrigued, if not even rooting for the assassins, as they are presented with their backstories, weaknesses, dreams, and aspirations. While they are professionals in their profession and undoubtedly have become cold-blooded killers, they also share moments of vulnerability. On the other hand, the members of the investigation team are also quite likable, as they are more than just bureaucrats. Rather unexpectedly perhaps, their playfulness and humor easily wins over anyone. It is not a typical modern fight between good and evil, but between and for humanity.   

Therefore, John Di Frances’ orchestrates a thrilling international chase making Pretense an easy to read, fast-paced novel. However, the book can also serve as a surface of reflection for modern and indeed, future, political affairs. So, beyond being simply an enjoyable read, it might hopefully entice the readers to a political debate of the current chapter in our lives.


Book Review by Christian Sia

Review Rating:  

PRETENSE is a first entry into The Imbroglio Trilogy by John Di Frances, a finely written political thriller with an international setting, a complex plot, and a phenomenal conflict. Political intrigue and conspiracy threaten the very foundations of the free world and the EU is about to crumble, that is, if a sinister plot isn’t arrested. It starts with the murder of two Prime Ministers within the same week, a crime that sends shock waves across Europe. Reputable Interpol agent Marek Frakas, nicknamed “The Wolf,” teams up with other expert investigators to track the murderers. Follow the investigation as it moves across countries – Czech Republic, Poland, Germany – while uncertainty punctuates every passing hour. The pressure is strong and readers will enjoy following professional detectives working in a tense environment, with trust for each other ebbing and the villains outwitting them easily. Marek will have to rely on his past connections and instincts if he is to solve the case. But can he outwit the villains? 

PRETENSE is crafted with red herrings that enhance the suspense and make for a delightful reading experience. It’s interesting to notice the conspiracy and how the detectives get easily outwitted. John Di Frances creates characters that are realistic yet imbued with a strong humanity and a deep sense of professionalism. My favorite character was Adrianna, the beautiful and intelligent forensic expert, and the author makes her come alive in her field, exploring her feminine humanity with unusual skill. The setting comes out vividly through the narrative and the reader gets a great picture of places, locales, and establishments where the action takes place. The plot is cunningly done, with twists that no one will see coming and suspense permeating every moment of the story. The crispiness and clarity in prose combine with natural-sounding dialogues to create the drama that makes for a cinematic experience. I felt as though I was riding alongside the characters because they are just so real.

Book Review by Romuald Dzemo

Review Rating:  

PRETENSE is the first book in the Imbroglio Trilogy by John Di Frances, a terrorist thriller and a story with strong characters and an international setting in Europe, the Greek Isles, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and the US. Two Prime Ministers have just been murdered, a few days apart, and uncertainty engulfs the whole of Europe. Who will be the next target? One of Interpol’s best agents, Marek Frakas also known as “The Wolf,” joins forces with the best police detectives from other countries. While the killer eludes the investigative team, it is ravaged by numerous differences and mistrust. Readers follow an investigation that carries them across countries. Someone is out to cause havoc in the EU and NATO, and the CIA might be involved in this nasty game. Can a contact from Marek’s past be the key to solving the assassinations? 

This is one of my favorite thrillers and I love authors who think boldly and who are not scared to take the stakes of a conflict very high. John Di Frances imagines a very strong conflict and manages it with unusual skill and confidence. The elements of crime and conspiracy, coupled with espionage, make this a fun read for fans of thrillers and crime novels. The characters are sophisticated, created with great depth. This novel offers huge entertainment with a dexterous plot that takes readers on an international chase, following clues with the characters. The pacing moves at breakneck speed while the conflict escalates very fast. Pretense has a lot for readers — a great plot, awesome characters, and a conflict as huge as anything you’d need to bring Europe to her knees. A real delight for fans of the genre!

Book Review by Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Review Rating:  

PRETENSE by John Di Frances is a thrilling political conspiracyEloquently and enticingly written, PRETENSE is the first book of John Di Frances’ Imbroglio Trilogy. The setting of the novel reveals the life and culture of post-cold war Eastern Europe. Like putting a fresh coat of paint on a rotting, dilapidated house, society may have modernized, but the remnants of past Communist regimes remain hidden below the surface. The narrative is fast-paced, full of action, thrills, and confusing situations, but it is the mysterious cast of characters that takes center stage. The characters are penned in a manner that keeps the reader continually second-guessing their sincerity. From beginning to end, deception definitely runs amok. The plot is filled with twists and turns, and multiple layers of intrigue. What is real or a ruse? Is anyone genuine or are they all masterful posers? One thing is for certain; the elusive finale leaves you eagerly waiting for the next book of the series.

Book Review by Lesley Jones

Review Rating:  

In PRETENSE by John Di Frances, with the European Union already under close scrutiny by their citizens, the whole of Europe has become a political ticking time bomb ready to explode…The touch paper is lit, and the people take to the streets, demanding answers. Enter Interpol officer Marek ‘The Wolf’ Farkas who uses all of his expertise to hunt down the killers. He joins forces with fearless forensic expert Adrianna Bartoszek and investigators from across Europe to ensure cohesion is restored. The game of cat and mouse begins as Marek follows the trio of assassins across Europe to capture them and discover who has hired them. The evidence seems to implicate the CIA, but is this fact or planted evidence? Marek must trust his instincts and use all of his expertise. Time is fast running out as more deaths occur. Will Marek ever manage to catch these three elusive assassins and discover who has hired them?

I loved cat and mouse chase element of this story. The fast paced action and suspense were evident throughout. Marek was intelligent and unfaltering in his search, but always seemed to be one step behind the killers. He made a very likable protagonist and his sidekick Adrianna was a brilliantly strong and feisty female character. The subject matter was clearly researched in detail and the mention of ISIS, the Skiripil scandal and the problems in Ukraine brought the story to life. The dialogue was well suited to each character and the author has managed to give each character depth and credibility. The constant twists and turns in the plot and the continuous but well-placed conflicts kept my attention throughout. The ending was an explosive cliffhanger and I am looking forward to reading the second book in this trilogy.

Book Review by Scott Cahan

Review Rating:  

PRETENSE by John Di Frances is an international crime thriller where we, as readers, are privy to the workings of both the criminals and the detectives. It follows a trio of killers as they execute several high profile crimes. On the other side of the law, we meet a group of top inspectors from Europe and America, who specialize in hunting down terrorists. It becomes a cat and mouse game as the good guys (and gal), aided by a large team of law enforcement personnel, follow the trail of terror, seeming to always be one step behind the bad guys. 

PRETENSE is written with a high level of detail into the inner workings of crime investigators and highly paid criminals. It doesn’t glamorize either side to make the story more exciting. Instead, John Di Frances has chosen to ramp up the tension through realistic plot twists and intricate maneuvering from both sides of the narrative. I found Pretense to be highly entertaining. Though the story is obviously fictional, it reads as if it is the true story behind the headlines. The strong attention to detail that I mentioned never becomes overwhelming or boring. Mr. Di Frances gives just the pertinent information required and then moves on to keep the action flowing. 

The story weaves both points of view together into an upward story arc, all the while including just enough mystery to keep us on the edge of our seats, wondering what will happen next. This is the first installment in a series called The Imbroglio Trilogy. PRETENSE provides a satisfying conclusion while also setting the stage for what promises to be an even more intricate plot in the remaining two installments.

PRETENSE, the first book in the trilogy is now available in Hardcover, Softcover, AudioBook, and eBook at the full range of independent bookstores and online book retailers worldwide.