Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Risk Agent

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by Ridley Pearson

Pearson

http://www.ridleypearson.com

Plot

John Knox and Grace Chu are hired by the Rutherford Risk company to track down Lu Hao and Clete Danner who were kidnapped by unknown forces. Knox and Chu quickly realize that Hao’s financial reports are key to everything: why the kidnapping occurred, who orchestrated it, and possibly the solution to saving them. However, Knox and Chu aren’t the only ones interested in Hao and his important numbers. Chinese State Police, a group of Mongolians, and a rival construction CEO are all involved. Knox and Chu constantly stay on the run, wanted by the police, and find more trouble when another agent of Rutherford Risk is hospitalized. The secret they are after is deeper than anyone realized.

This is a complicated story with a lot of connections and mysteries to be solved. There is a lot going on and Pearson keeps it all in line.

Kidnapping, corruption, bribery, and the mystery of motive. All of it combines to make a pretty decent thriller.

Characters

Grace Chu: Forensic accountant, has had Chinese military service, Masters in Economics from Berkley, Masters in Criminology at U.C. Irvine, works on the sly for Rutherford Risk Agency, wide face, broad shoulders, trained in hand to hand combat, surveillance, small arms, and communications. Father estranged, mother alive. Serious demeanor.

John Knox: Dark blue eyes, scar by left ear and other scars from past work for the military, cleft in chin, operates an Internet trading company specializing in Asian / Middle East souvenirs with his brother who is a savant in numbers but suffers several medical problems. Parents dead. Has had SERE training. Cultural expert. Fan of football

Brian Primer: Head of Rutherford Risk Agency Asian branch, tan gray flinty eyes

Steve Kozlowski: Friend of John’s, football fan, works at U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, tall, handsome, receding hairline, almost bald, married, tense movements, likes motorcycles

And so many more interesting characters. Very distinctive characters with enough description and background information to readily remember them. Very good character development.

Dialogue

Grace doesn’t use contractions. Kozlowski is very political. Primer is business. Good depiction of Chinese without going overboard on missed words.

What the reader cannot hear is described as either Mandarin or Shanghainese.

Writing

This story takes place in Shanghai and Pearson does an excellent job of showing the Chinese culture both good and bad. The energy and action amp up the closer it comes to the date of the ransom payment and then…takes off in the aftermath. Chapters are headed by date/time/location. Scene changes are delineated by time changing. A little profanity. Action is precise and not too graphic.

My ranking:

Brown Belt

Brown

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Damage Control

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By John Gilstrap

Gilstrap_sm_headshot

http://johngilstrap.com/

Plot

A bus full of missionaries in Mexico is hijacked. Enter Jonathan Grave and his security Solutions team to coordinate the ransom and release of the hostages. However, everything goes bad and Jonathan and his buddy Boxer are left to make it to the border with a seventeen year old boy in tow. The entire hostage situation was an attempt to kill Grave and Boxers. Now they’re fighting for their lives and up against betrayal and corruption that include a power hungry CIA agent, a drug dealer, and even to a well known minister of a mega-church. However, the trio isn’t without resources and know how. It’s a wild and bullet ridden race to the finish line.

Almost instant action right from the start. It’s a giant cat and mouse game mostly set in Mexico, with more action in Arizona, and the manipulators in Washington. At first I thought the switching back and forth would be distracting, but Gilstrap ties everything together nicely, keeping a fairly tight plot with a lot of quick scenes.

Characters

Jonathan Grave: Nickname ‘Digger’, code name Scorpion, leader of Security Solutions, blue eyes, attended William and Mary College. Father was a mobster and left a lot of wealth to Jonathan. He possesses a near photographic memory and because of his father, has an urge to protect the weak. Separated form his wife.

Brian Van de Meulbroeke: Code name Boxers, nickname ‘Big Guy’, almost seven feet tall, huge body mass, Grave’s right hand man.

Trevor Munro: CIA agent looking for advancement, out to kill Grave and Boxers, former station chief in Caracas.

Venice Alexander: aka Mother Hen, first name pronounced Ven-EE-chay. Director of Operations for Security Solutions. Has a twelve year old son.

There is just enough focus on the characters keeps this book from becoming a complete shoot ‘em up. Tristan is the lone hostage survivor and his mind set is shown throughout each phase of the adventure. I also enjoy Father Dom. His was a determined personality who never gave up.

Dialogue

Fairly distinctive voices for each character. Most conversations are quick and to the point.

Writing

No holding back. Violence. Profanity. Blood. Depiction and description of torture and humiliation and murder. The incidents are not drawn out, but Gilstrap wasn’t going to sugarcoat the evil. The action is quick because of the professionalism of Grave and Boxers. They know their stuff because Gilstrap knows his weaponry, technology, and strategy. This was a good combination of intelligence, strategy, technology and professionalism with a dose of humanity to keep it real. Very clean and grammatical writing.

My ranking:

Brown Belt

Brown

Burn Mark

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By Laura Powell

powell

http://laurapowellauthor.com/

It is present day and witches live and work in everyday life. They aren’t totally accepted, must be registered by the state, and if crimes are committed using witchcraft, the modern day Inquisition steps in. The penalty? What else but burning.

Plot

Fifteen year old Gloriana ‘Glory’ Morgan, a descendent of line of powerful witches, desperately wants to become a witch herself. Lucas Stearne, teenage son of the Chief Prosecutor of the Inquisition in London, is looking forward to following in the family tradition. However, when the fae (witch powers) descend upon both of them, their lives are forever altered. Gloriana associates with a band of crooks and an illegal coven. She is recruited to weed discover who in the ranks is skimming money. Glory’s aunt would like her to remake the image of the coven when Glory takes charge. Lucas, despite his father’s objections, elects to go undercover to discover who the coven is bribing in regards to an important witchcrime trial. While both Glory and Lucas deal with their expanding powers, they also battle treachery and conspiracy from their own organizations…and personal conflict between themselves.

This is a slightly different take on the witch universe. I didn’t find anything unbelievable or outrageous about it. Basically, it’s a standard thriller-undercover-conspiracy plot with witches added into the mix.

Characters

Gloriana Staling Wilde: 15, has nightmares about her mother, who left when Glory was very young, burning as a witch. Wants to become a witch. Comes from powerful witch ancestors.

Lucas John Augustine Stearne: 15, son of the Chief Prosecutor for the Inquisition. Saw his first witch burning at ten. Wants to follow in the family profession. Black hair, has a stepmother and step sister. He birth mother was killed by terrorist witches.

Except for what I mention in dialogue nothing too bad with the characters. The arrogant, egotistical ones stand out the best.

Dialogue

Both Lucas and Glory sound older and more mature than typical fifteen year olds. Lucas’ Dad and stepsister and Glory’s Aunt Angelina have distinctive voices as do the other teens and adults.

Writing

Switches back and forth between scenes featuring Lucas and Glory. No profanity and not too much graphic detail. Reads like a mature YA. Doesn’t go over board on the magic. Powell keeps it ‘real’ and believable.

My ranking:

Blue Belt

Blue

A Bitter Veil

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By Libby Fischer Hellman

Libby-Hellmann-

http://libbyhellmann.com/about.html

Plot

In 1977, Anna Schroder is attending college in Chicago when she meets an engineering student Nouri Samedi who hails from Iran. Friendship turns to love and passion and eventually marriage. They return to Nouri’s homeland to continue their life together. However, storm clouds have been gathering. Iran’s leader, the Shah, is a tyrant, and is slowly being forced out. When the Shah leaves and Khomeini assumes control, things from bad to worse. Anna’s life heads in a downward spiral as Islamic fascism slowly becomes the norm. She watches in horror as Nouri slowly succumbs to the new regime and her marriage, her existence is in peril. When Nouri is murdered and Anna is imprisoned, her only hope is to somehow escape and find the real killer.

This is not so much a murder mystery, although there is that aspect, but more of a spotlight on how a culture changed in the late seventies and early eighties. This includes actual events, such as the taking of the American Embassy by terrorists. The cultural shock is probably not atypical for those women who have married into Muslim life and found themselves trapped.

Characters

Anna Schroder Samedi: pale green eyes, blonde, athletic build, attended the University of Chicago as an English major, prolific reader, likes film, parents divorced when Anna was five, father worked for the Nazis during the war

Nouri Samedi: Iranian, tall, straight black hair that curls under his ears, flat chin, aquiline nose, thick lashes, brown eyes with flakes of amber, attended the University of Illinois at Chicago to learn engineering, loves poetry, father in the oil business, has a sister

Hassan Ghaffari: Nouri’s friend, plays soccer, thick and squat frame, black eyes, melted caramel colored skin, pointy chin, thin mustache

Hellman presents some well thought out characters with very distinctive personalities. There is Nouri’s sister who is a very westernized teen. The wealthy father. I enjoyed how Nouri changed throughout the book.

Dialogue

Good voices. Sometimes I didn’t believe some of the dialogue, especially from Nouri’s mother. Sometimes it just didn’t sound natural.

Writing

The book is divided into Parts. It is a relatively fast read. Even though I knew what was going to happen in regards to Anna’s life in Iran I felt compelled to read further to see just how bad it could get. One word of profanity. One mild instance of torture. Nothing too graphic. In fact Hellman held back on the suffering. I can only imagine the truth is so much devastating than is portrayed here. In fact, with news reports of the atrocities done over the decades, no imagination is needed.

My ranking:

Blue Belt

Blue

Party Doll

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By Steve Brewer

Brewer

http://www.amazon.com/Steve-Brewer/e/B000APQS2E/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Plot

When Albuquerque private eye Bubba Mabry is hired by a strip club owner to find one of his dancers gone missing, there are not a lot of leads. His wife, star reporter, is working on a corruption scandal involving the state fairgrounds. Slowly, pieces start falling together and Mabry realizes the dancer’s disappearance may be connected to the scandal. Mabry finds himself involved with big bad bouncers, a United States Attorney, and federal marshals. As more people enter the picture, Mabry gets in deeper and must discover who is desperate enough to commit murder.

Okay, please forgive me and don’t call me a pig, but when the story started off in a strip club and the humor flowed like water, I was hooked. It’s a light-hearted typical PI story but still enjoyable.

Characters

Bubba Mabry: late 30s, Albuquerque private detective, married, carries a .38 Smith and Wesson, drives an Oldsmobile, had a book published with his wife, only child, father is a semi-retired trucker, mother claimed to receive visit from Jesus,

Felicia Quattlebaum; Mabry’s wife, newspaper reporter, drives a Toyota, chin length hair, brown eyes

Elmo ‘Slick’ Gurken: owner of the Pink Pony Gentlemen’s Club, prefers western clothing, large paunch, bald head, square jaw

Dale Cready: Slick’s right hand man, thin, into western clothing, squints

Nick Wilson: lives in a messy apartment, writer, dark curly hair, loner, introvert

Shawn Weston: around 25, Joy’s former boyfriend, copper colored skin, dark brown hair and eyes

Some quirky characters, all enjoyable. Just enough information pertaining to them to give the reader a nice picture without too much extraneous or unimportant detail.

Dialogue

Elmo has the most memorable way of speaking. Other than some internal asides from Mabry, conversations don’t lag.

Writing

First person from Mabry’s POV. Instances of unnecessary profanity. Brewer pokes a little fun at fiction writers in one scene. One misspelled little word. Fairly quick read. Not a very long book. Action scenes move quickly. Thoroughly enjoyable and I wouldn’t mind reading something else by Brewer if I ever had the chance.

My ranking:

Blue Belt

Blue