Michael C. Grumley’s Breakthrough Series

michael_c_grumleyAbout the author:

Education:  B.A. Organizational Behavior–University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

Website: https://www.michaelgrumley.com/

Thriller Sub-genre: Techno/Sci-Fi thriller

Future of the series: Grumley’s sixth book of the series which is entitled Echo was released on 2/28/21.

Review of Mosaic

The Simon Review

When I was a little girl, I loved the TV show Flipper. I would go around singing “They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning/No one you see, is faster than he” and swim around in our little plastic wading pool pretending to be a dolphin.

Dolphins have always been a favorite among humans and it is no surprise that Michael C. Grumley’s series Breakthrough would be a hit when two of the main characters are dolphins known as Sally and Dirk. The focus of Grumley’s Breakthrough series involves computer technology that has the capability of being a translator between humans and dolphins and later in the series between humans and gorillas. This creates a very unique and interesting plotline that investigates the human interaction between our fellow creatures on a totally different level.

There are a number of characters that are constant throughout the series, but I would have to say that the two main characters are Alison Shaw; marine biologist and lead researcher on the dolphin communication project, and John Clay; a military analyst that is part of what is called the Electronics and Signaling Team within the Department of Naval Investigations. Shaw is your typical female scientist found in many thrillers, obsessed with the science and willing to put herself in harm’s way in order to advance her agenda. She does, however, have a strong emotional attachment to the dolphins, which takes precedence over anything else. Because of this, she finds it difficult to find an acceptable balance between advancing the science and protecting the dolphins. If that is not enough for her, John Clay has entered into her life as a romantic figure, who more often than not, finds himself in potentially deadly situations, which I’m sure, results in numerous Pepto-Bismol moments for Alison Shaw.  As for the other characters, there is a toss-up between two of the characters that I consider to be my favorites, John Caesare and Will Borger. Caesare is John Clay’s partner and a bit of a maverick, an ex-Navy SEAL that takes on a project with a tremendous amount of gusto. Then there is Will Borger, the typical computer geek, and since I tend to have a soft spot for geeks, I couldn’t help but like this character.

I would classify this series as a Sci-Fi/Techno-thriller hybrid. Sci-Fi as it includes aliens and techno because of the sophisticated computer system that Grumley has tagged as IMIS, Inter-Mammal Interpretive System. Though the function of IMIS is still in the realm of science fiction, there is a reasonable probability that this technology may one day become a reality. For years, researchers, such as those at the Wild Dolphin Project, have been working on trying to understand communication patterns among dolphins and maybe getting close to making Grumely’s IMIS a reality. Just recently, a Russian scientist has published a paper in the St. Petersburg Polytechnical University Journal: Physics and Mathematics that presents data that suggests that dolphins may have complex language skills. Though the debate is continuing on these findings, the concept is intriguing with the possibility of a real IMIS in the future.

As for the Sci-Fi aspect of the series, the first book of the series unquestionably has an alien problem, but the following two books in the series, which still has aliens involved, dealt with more Earth-like issues. Personally, I could have done without the aliens, as it seems to take away from what is a really good plotline, which is humans communicating with other species of animals. But alas, I think the aliens are here to stay, but it does seem that Grumley may be moving away from making them the centralized core of the series. So far, the aliens seem to be the good guys, even though they had inadvertently caused problems in the first book of the series, Breakthrough, and somewhat in the following books, they don’t seem to be presenting any ill-will toward us Earthlings.

So if you like dolphins, plenty of action and aliens to boot, then the Breakthrough series will be a fun read. Though I would say that the first novel, Breakthrough, isn’t Grumley’s best work, the rest of the series is shaping up to be a really fun series and it seems Grumley has a bright future as an author. Breakthrough is more of a standalone than the other two books in the series, but Leap and Catalyst do need to be read together. The novella Genesis is offered only on the author’s website for free and is a quick introduction to the series.

Simon’s pick:

Most Favorite Novel in the Series- Catalyst– because it is the most exciting in the series

Least Favorite Novel in the Series- Breakthrough– because I would have preferred not having the alien theme

What about the science? When Michael C. Grumley is not writing books, he is working as an Information Technology Director at Text 100, so he strives to make the technology he discusses in the series accurate. Though his aptitude in computers and technology is sound, he lacks somewhat in the biological sciences (See Technical Word in Review) 

The Alison Shaw Technical Word in Review: Erythrocytes-Our blood is made up of three different cell types; erythrocytes (red blood cells), leukocytes (white blood cells), and thrombocytes (platelets). Erythrocytes are highly specialized cells that I call the ‘FedEx’ cells of the body, as their main functions is to deliver and receive nutrients and waste from every cell in the body. The red coloration of the cells comes from the oxygenated form of a protein known as hemoglobin which carries iron molecules that complexes with oxygen as well as carbon dioxide.

Behind them, Lee was standing several feet away with one finger holding a tiny cotton swab in place. “So what exactly are we looking for?”

Erythrocyte behavior.”

Lee glanced at Chris. “That doesn’t sound good.”

Neely laughed. “It sounds spookier than it is. I just want to observe the growth rate of your red blood cells, also known as erythrocytes. They’re the most common cells in our bodies and have a highly regulated lifespan before they are recycled by our macrophages. If there have been nucleic changes affecting cellular regeneration, we’re likely to see it at the erythrocyte level.”-Catalyst

Of all cell types, Grumley couldn’t have made a poorer choice as far as growth studies go, as erythrocytes do not have a nucleus and are incapable of going through cell division. Our red blood cells originate through a process known as erythropoiesis. Erythropoiesis occurs in the bone marrow where adult stem cells known as hematopoietic cells differentiate or change into red blood cells. Immature red blood cells will have a nucleus, but soon loses it before it is released from the bone marrow. This gives the cell more room to carry large quantities of hemoglobin. The red blood cells will live for about 120 days before they die, but during that time they will never divide.

When a laboratory does DNA testing on our blood, it is the leukocytes or white blood cells that provide the nuclear DNA, as white blood cells do have a nucleus. Even though they do have a nucleus, most white blood cells also do not go through cell division except in specialized cases, and like red blood cells they also originate in the bone marrow. Red blood cells contain no DNA since they do not have a nucleus or mitochondria (another source of DNA), which makes them useless for DNA studies as well as growth studies.

Books in the Series by Order:

Most Favorite in the series: Mosaic with a score of 4.69

Least Favorite in the series: Genesis with a score of 4.01

Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Library Thing, Rakuten Kobo, and Amazon

breakthrough#1-Breakthrough- 2013

First Line:

Something out there sounded strange.


Alison Shaw: Marine biologist and senior researcher at the Miami City Aquarium

Chris Ramirez: Lead investigator on the IMIS research team

John Clay: Analyst on the Electronics and Signaling team for the Department of Naval Investigations

Steve Caesare: Analyst on the Electronics and Signaling team for the Department of Naval Investigations and former Navy SEAL

Kathryn Lokke: Director of the United States Geological Services

Will Borger: Computer specialist on the Electronics and Signaling team for the Department of Naval Investigations

Lee Kenwood: Computer engineer for the IMIS research team

Admiral Langford: Head of the Department of Naval Investigations

Dirk and Sally: Male and female dolphins

The Setting

Miami, Antarctica, and Washington, D.C.


Deep in the Caribbean Sea, a nuclear submarine is forced to suddenly abort its mission under mysterious circumstances. Strange facts begin to emerge that lead naval investigator, John Clay, to a small group of marine biologists who are quietly on the verge of making history.

With the help of a powerful computer system, Alison Shaw and her team are preparing to translate the first two-way conversation with the planet’s second smartest species. But the team discovers much more from their dolphins than they ever expected when a secret object is revealed on the ocean floor. One that was never supposed to be found.

Alison was sure she would never trust the military again. However, when an unknown group immediately becomes interested in her work, Alison realizes John Clay may be the only person she can trust. Together they must piece together a dangerous puzzle, and the most frightening piece, is the trembling in Antarctica.

To make matters worse, someone from the inside is trying to stop them. Now time is running out…and our understanding of the world is about to change forever.

Lewis frowned. “So is this going to work? I mean, how long will it take to make this kind of breakthrough?”

Looking for a review of Breakthrough?  Check out:

My Thoughts On The Book

The Kindle Book Review


Norbert Haupt

Pippa P Shaw

Amazon Rating: 4.33 out of 5 stars based on 10,022 ratings

Rakuten Kobo: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 3.89 out of 5 stars based on 26,478 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.55 out of 5 stars based on 68 ratings

Total Score 4.02 (Updated 10/26/20)


leap#2-Leap- 2014

First Line:

“I think you better get down here.”


Alison Shaw, John Clay, Steve Caesare, Kathryn Lokke, Will Borger, Chris Ramirez, Lee Kenwood, Admiral Langford, Dirk and Sally

DeeAnn Draper: Research investigator on primate communication

Juan Diaz: Computer engineer working on the IMIS translation system

Neely Lawton: Military scientist

Dulce: Gorilla

The Setting

Guyana, China, Brazil, and Puerto Rico


Facing the cold, clear glass, Alison Shaw stared nervously into the giant seawater tank.

It was just one year ago that she and her team of marine biologists had stunned the world with their incredible breakthrough.
And now…they were about to do it again.

But an ocean away, something strange was unfolding. Along a lonely coast in South America, an experimental Russian submarine — long thought to have been dismantled — has suddenly resurfaced. And the U.S. Navy has taken notice, sending officers John Clay and Steve Caesare to investigate.

The sub has been studying a group of unmarked soldiers. Disappearing into the jungle each night beneath the cover of darkness.
Something has been discovered. Something big.

Unfortunately, the soldiers are about to learn that making the find of the century is one thing. Keeping it…is another.

“How well do you believe your people would handle a true leap in knowledge, given their current use of fission and fusion devices? How well would they manage frequencies than can harm as well as heal? Mr. Borger, ingenuity is the ultimate gift to humankind. And conquest is the ultimate curse. They cannot be separated. Not yet. Not until you face the gravest threat to your planet’s existence. Until you face mortality as a species, not as individual groups. Only then can you glimpse true wisdom.”

Looking for a review of Leap?  Check out:

Karen Brooks

Amazon Rating: 4.55 out of 5 stars based on 4,691 ratings

Rakuten Kobo: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.26 out of 5 stars based on 11,987 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.48 out of 5 stars based on 32 ratings

Total Score 4.34 (Updated 10/26/20)


genesis#2.5-Genesis (Prequel Novella) – 2015

First Line:

It was amazing.


Alison Shaw and Chris Ramirez

When a young marine biologist discovers that she’s the victim of a deceptive US Navy research group, her world is suddenly turned upside down. Together Alison Shaw and her colleague Chris Ramirez, are left trying to pick up the pieces of their professional lives.

But those pieces are about to put Alison on a path with two creatures that are destined to change everything.  Beginning with one of the greatest technological achievements in human history.  And an extraordinary computer system known as IMIS.

Amazon Rating: not rated

Rakuten Kobo: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.01 out of 5 stars based on 150 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings

Total Score 4.01 (Updated 10/26/20)


catalyst#3-Catalyst- 2016

First Line:

With a painful wince, Steve Caesare brushed back his shirt and slid a hand down over the handle of his gun.


Alison Shaw, John Clay, Steve Caesare, Will Borger, Chris Ramirez, Lee Kenwood, Admiral Langford, Neely Lawton, DeeAnn Draper, Juan Diaz, Dulce,  Dirk and Sally

The Setting

China, Brazil, and Puerto Rico

In 1984 a doomsday vault was constructed on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean.

Its purpose was to preserve Earth’s genetic history in the event of a global catastrophe.

Now, decades later, a second vault has been uncovered. This one resting where no one ever expected. And the problem is…it’s not ours.

Yet even more curious than the vault itself, is what lies inside. Seeds. Millions of seeds. Each with a genetic embryo untouched and perfectly preserved. Waiting.

No one knows who built it. Or when. What we have managed to figure out is that whoever it was traveled an immense distance. For the sole purpose of hiding their genetic blueprints on Earth. But why?

Now a small group of marine biologists and navy investigators have been assigned to find out. Before anyone else does.

But Alison Shaw and John Clay are not prepared for what they are about to uncover.
Beginning with the truth behind our own evolution.

“To many, Lucy is the missing link. The link in our own evolutionary path where things…changed. She represents an important threshold, a time and place where the most significant leap in human history took place. The catalyst.”

Looking for a review of Catalyst?  Check out:

Karen Brooks

Amazon Rating: 4.65 out of 5 stars based on 2,737 ratings

Rakuten Kobo: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.38 out of 5 stars based on 8,320 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.84 out of 5 stars based on 22 ratings

Total Score 4.43 (updated 10/26/20)


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000447_00010]#4-Ripple- 2016

Listed #253 out of 552 on Goodreads Best Technothrillers Ever Book List

Listed #61 out of 172 on Goodreads Best Sciencethrillers Book List

My review of Ripple

First Line:

Les Gorski stared through his dark-framed glasses with a weary expression.


Alison Shaw, John Clay, Steve Caesare, Will Borger, Chris Ramirez, Lee Kenwood, Admiral Langford, Neely Lawton, DeeAnn Draper, Dulce, Dirk and Sally

The Setting

China, Puerto Rico, near Trinidad, and Rwanda

It began in Ethiopia. Hundreds of thousands of years ago. A handful of genetic mutations caused evolution to split from the primates. And mankind was born.

Now, eons later, evidence of more splits from the apes are being unearthed. And with them, a disturbing realization. Our split was only one of many.

And yet we survived.

But it was not by luck or chance. We know that we survived because of something very special. A unique ingredient the others did not have.

An ingredient that has only now been rediscovered.

First in the mountains of South America. Where it was promptly destroyed by the Chinese. And now a second source in Africa. Hidden in one of the continent’s most dangerous regions. The epicenter of mankind’s very inception.

A place that John Clay and Alison Shaw must now reach first. Because the Russians already know what we are searching for. And the Chinese want back what is rightfully theirs.

The rest of the secret awaits…in Africa. But this time, it will not only explain who we are. It will decipher the very code of our own DNA.

It was how all human history occurred. Important events creating ripple effects through an unfathomably complex minefield of social and political consequences. Ending with what could only be described as unexpected and unpredictable results. Only to be recorded later, by thoughtful but biased individuals, as “history”.

And the events unfolding now would be no different. For the Americans or the Russians.

Looking for a review of Ripple?  Check out:

Karen Brooks

Amazon Rating: 4.78 out of 5 stars based on 3,627 ratings

Rakuten Kobo: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.54 out of 5 stars based on 9,397 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.50 out of 5 stars based on 7 ratings

Total Score 4.61 (updated 10/26/20)

#5-Mosaic- 2019

My review of Mosaic

First Line:

The late afternoon sun rested well below the thick canopy of African trees, producing a rich pink-orange hue through the cloud-covered sky.

The world is losing hope.

Political and social infighting threaten to destroy the world.  Rancor and hatred only grow stronger, engulfing nations around the globe.  And each day moral and economic strife brings embroiled countries ever closer to war.  

But hope is not dead.  Everywhere, pockets of human kindness and compassion continue to persevere.  Where lives are cherished and virtue endures.  And one small, extraordinary group fights to save us all. 

A team in possession of the mother of all secrets.  The one secret – the one discovery – that could bring the world back from the brink.

“She’s a mosaic,” Neely replied.

“A what?”

“A Mosaic.”

Caesare looked back and forth between them. “She’s a picture?”

“No. There are two meanings of the word. The most common is that of a picture or collage, made up of different pieces. But mosaic has a biological term. Meaning an individual, or animal, made up of cells of two genetically different types.”

Looking for a review of Mosaic?  Check out:

Karen Brooks

Amazon Rating: 4.83 out of 5 stars based on 1,953 ratings

Rakuten Kobo: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.63 out of 5 stars based on 4,490 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.13 out of 5 stars based on 5 ratings

Total Score 4.69 (updated 10/26/20)

#6-Echo- 2021

The world has changed, both for the better and the worse.
Forcing our values to be reassessed, and our very existence rethought.

It began with a breakthrough. In interspecies communication. Leading both John Clay and Alison Shaw through a series of startling discoveries and life-altering revelations. Divulging who we really are as a species. Why we are here…and who is here with us.

And the greatest lesson of all, that our brains are not as rare and unique as humans had assumed. But rather just one of three brains between three extraordinary species. All influenced by a fluke of evolution and something that should never have existed on Earth in the first place. Something we are now finally on the verge of understanding.

It will take more than just one brain to do it. More than just one species. And courage from all three.

Courage in the face of those still trying to stop Clay and Alison before their stranglehold on the world is lost.

But Clay and his team already know the truth. That there is no courage without fear, and no victory without sacrifice.