by Bruce Bradley
Andrew Hastings is part of the team launching new healthful snack line for the biggest food distributor in the world. However, one of the key ingredients has had some problems and FDA disapproval will cost several people a lot of money. Solution: eliminate the people causing the problem. When Andrew starts asking questions and digging into files meant to be destroyed, his name is added to the list of problems to be solved. Suddenly on the run with his son, he must negotiate a path through corruption and greed to expose the killers.
Rather than weapons or chemical warfare, or spies trading information, this thriller comes from the Big Food angle. Sure it’s still about profits and power hungry people, but Bradley gives us an inside look at food manufacturers and how they’re just like any other business. Money means everything.
Andrew Hasting: Marketing Manager for B-Lean Snacks. Divorced with son, blond, blue eyes, 6’2”, fit, graduated top of class from Carleton College, MBA from Stanford
Dan Murdock: Andrew’s temporary boss, C.O.O. of U.S. Retail, married with five kids, sandy brown hair, owns a dog, father was an alcoholic
Heidi Pearson: Blonde, blue eyes, reporter for a Minneapolis television station, charismatic, leadership skills, classmate of Andrew’s at Carleton, dated Andrew after his divorce
Josh Sargent: Andrew’s friend, fit, wealthy, works in I.T. at International Food & Milling, 5’10”, short brown hair, brown eyes flecked with gold, scruffy beard, square face, single, avid golfer
Lia Merriman: vegan, works for Ethical Food Coalition
Aiden Toole: 58, CEO of IFM, wealthy, married, 5’6”, blond but balding, fit, wears glasses, steel blue eyes, has a inner insecurity
Chloe Stiles: 48, married and divorced four times, with two kids, IFM’s President of Innovation, Technology and Quality, skittish, child star beauty pageant winner, black hair going brittle, has had several cosmetic surgeries, very thin, dresses inappropriately for her age
Laura Long: owns a Cadillac STS platinum with a driver, owns Long and Company which houses lobbyist groups, Chinese descent, 5’3”, thin, shoulder length dark hair, born in Vietnam, dark narrow eyes, wears glasses, tries to hide her attractive features, orphaned as a child, has a brain damaged brother, valedictorian in high school, attended Harvard
There are a lot of characters in this book and the author introduces most of them in the first three chapters. I enjoyed the variety of personalities but I was a little disappointed to see the bad guys revealed before page 50. But, that’s how thrillers work. They’re not whodunits waiting until the end to reveal the killers. I hoped for a little more suspense. Good descriptions although a lot of the characters were blonde for some reason. Maybe because they’re from Minnesota. Lol. Bradley does a fine job of giving the bad guys good qualities and making the good guys not perfect. I thought it a bit of an imagination stretch to think of these characters involved with food, reporting and IT suddenly having attributes of international spies but, again, sometimes, this is how thrillers work. I enjoyed the ‘workability’ with the groups. The good guys work well together as a group, as do the bad guys.
To the point. Conversations aren’t frivolous and move the story along. Pretty distinctive voices, especially from Long and Dan, and Andrew’s ex. No extraneous material and nobody wandered. The dialogue was fairly tight and stayed on point.
Chapters and scene changes are headed by location, date and time. Tight, short scenes in every chapter. Bradley knows the mechanics of food producers and presents it well. The story moves slowly at first but when Andrew figures out he’s a target, the action picks up considerably. The story turns into the duck and run, give and take, make contacts and avoid enemies type of read I enjoy. No graphic details and the violence is just stated without a lot of blood. The food angle intrigued me to accept this book for review and although I wanted more action at the beginning, the background and build up was necessary and I was never bored. A couple of misspelled words but otherwise error free. Another stretch was the length of time of one of the characters being held prisoner. Over a week. I can’t imagine more fuss wasn’t made. Workmates and friends didn’t wonder why this individual suddenly disappeared, didn’t make more of a fuss. Plus, the longer someone is kidnapped, the more contingencies have to be considered (food, bathroom time, etc.) and there is more time for the bad guys to make mistakes. Especially considering the attitude of one of the kidnappers. I don’t believe he would have been able to resist his temptations. Bradley offers a message at the end to help answer some of the questions he’s been asked and he provides almost a page of websites offering healthful food related advice. Despite some of the minor problems this was a well written book.