By Russell Brooks
Code-named Pandora, it is a highly infectious microbe with no known antidote. A terrorist group, known as the Arms of Ares are trying to develop it to sell on the black market. Enter CIA operative Ridley Fox, still grieving over his fiance’s death. He’s been assigned to retrieve Pandora and help shut down Ares. Soon, he teams with operative Nita Parris who has infiltrated a pharmaceutical company suspected of being involved with brainwashing…and Pandora. Their relationship is rocky, but their goal is to bring down whoever threatens not only world peace, but millions of lives. But who can they trust, because their foe has spies everywhere…
Nice thriller. Well thought out. Some timely aspects of biological terror included.
Ridley Fox: 6’2”, CIA operative, former Joint Task Force Two operative, fiance was murdered two years before beginning of story, fluent in several languages, played football and rugby
Nita Parris: black, grew up in Barbados, participated in track, CIA operative, attended Princeton University, has a doctorate in Biology, mother dead, father absent in her life,
Sveta Sokolova: husband dead, Russian
Valerik: name is an alias, former KGB operative, member of the Arms of Ares, smoker, overweight
Tabitha Marx: mid forties, has a doctorate, 6′, ice blue eyes, long dirty blonde hair, father-dead-worked as a CIA operative in Pakistan, mother-dead-worked for the KGB, works for the CDC, widowed, code name: Undertaker
Hideaki Hashimoto: 64, 5’7”, fit, doctorate of Pharmaceutical Sciences from Tokyo University, CEO of Hexagon Pharmaceuticals, knowledgeable in brain washing techniques
Tomas Levickis: of Lithuanian descent, bearded, CIA technical field agent, slightly overweight
Pretty solid characters. They reminded me a little of the cast of the old G.I. Joe cartoons in that you have a few heroes against an array of baddies and each contingent of the bad guys are fighting another for power while fending off the good guys.
Average in that I didn’t get a real sense of voices. Fox’s boss (es) could have had some gruffness as I imagine Generals and Colonels sometimes have. Marx came through okay but I think the conversations were just shy of being 100% strong. I don’t think it was a matter of the author trying too hard, just that the dialogue lacked that last bit of punch to make it really solid. Part of this problem may lie in the writing section.
Profanity. Chapters headed by time and/or location. Some problems with sentences that have an action: …he let his palm drop into his hand… and then following that with an ‘ing’ word …,massaging his forehead. These two actions in the same sentence make it seem as if they’re happening at the same time. You can’t drop and massage at the same time. You can drop, then massage. There are several instances like this. Unnecessary words: …stood two feet away from him. The reader knows it’s ‘him’ being referred to, so ‘from him’ isn’t needed. A lot of usage of the word ‘as’. A few tense problems: ‘has’ instead of ‘had’ in a past tense sentence.
In general, the writing could have been a bit tighter as for example this: Marx leaned so close to Parris’s ear that she felt her breath tickle the surface of her skin. I know what the author meant, that Marx was so close when speaking (in the previous line of dialogue) that Parris felt Marx’s breath on her skin. However, the way the sentence is written, that’s not the connotation derived.
Now, having pointed out these weaknesses, I will admit the story was good. Fine plot, pretty exciting action although I wanted more emotion and pain depicted. The author did well on technology and explaining medicalese. No part of the story dragged. I would have enjoyed a bit more of a surprise each time a new traitor was revealed.
With all of that said, I enjoyed the book, but with the mistakes and weakness in the writing, I had to knock down the rank from a potential blue. I gave serious consideration for camouflage, but sometimes at rank advancement testings for my students I have to judge overall effort and while not just arbitrarily giving away the next rank I may lean in the positive direction and know that I’ll have work with the student so he can perform better next time. So, if I may be forgiven the run on sentence I just wrote, I’ll add in the ‘likeability’ factor to this book and give it a:
(Note: I’ve accepted two other books from this author so, I will hope, as all of us authors should strive for, that the writing improves with each book…no more Mr. Nice Guy. Lol.)