Becoming the Wolf, R H Neil

Becoming the Wolf, R H Neil

Becoming the Wolf: A White Wolf Justice Thriller

JD Ward is ex-military, currently working as a police officer in the outskirts of Cincinnati. With a chief who respects him enough to assign him the nasty cases, a partner who gives him hell on a regular basis, and a young family, JD’s time is pretty much fully spoken for, and that’s before the local motorcycle gang starts gunning for him. After that, it’s going to take all the tricks JD knows to keep himself alive and his family safe…especially with the military reaching out to reclaim their own.

Becoming the Wolf is an interesting take on the crime thriller genre, where the lines between upholding the law and applying military training and tactics to dispense summary justice on the streets become increasingly blurred. JD starts out as a clean-cut young officer trying to make something of his career in a small-town department, but he quickly escalates to sawn-off shotguns and execution killings in the sewers and schools of his town. The argument for whether upholding the letter of the law, or enforcing what an individual perceives as its intent with force, is one of the primary threads of this novel.

Unfortunately, while the ethical points being raised are well worth the read, the writing style of the book as a whole didn’t draw me in. There’s definitely a strong argument for dialect in dialogue, but the incidence of American slang usage in the narrative kept pulling my attention off the storyline, and a certain tendency to tell rather than show in some areas didn’t really help. However, the dialogue often came to the rescue, well-written and frequently entertaining.

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Seven Lives, Simon Phillips

Seven Lives, Simon Phillips

Seven Lives

She’s an agent for the British Secret Services, recruited for special assignment during the Troubles of the early 1990s, and sent undercover so often that she’s all but forgotten her original identity. For years, she’s followed orders, obtained information, killed the targets she’s pointed at, until a new assignment pulls her back to the UK, and the old, familiar tale of the Irish troubles. Following the trail of one of those rarities, a female IRA operative, she unknowingly pulls on threads that were meant to stay hidden, and the fallout spreads in a domino trail of deaths.

Seven Lives is a spy thriller set in the years when a pager was more common than a mobile phone, and the Internet was little more than a theory, against the bloody background of the ongoing violence of the Northern Irish conflict. The plot is complex and well-constructed, and the characters are clearly well-envisaged. For me, it was the technical aspect of the story that prevented this book from getting more stars. There were a number of repetitive editorial issues in the text, and in places the narrative would have benefited immensely from some polishing to remove the traces of awkwardness that detracted from the otherwise excellent read. I really feel that a strong edit would take this from a three-star rating to a four- or even five-star read – the book is well-paced and twisty, and certain to please thriller fans.

Seven Lives cover

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Operation Hail Storm, Brett Arquette

Operation Hail Storm, Brett Arquette

Operation: Hail Storm (Classroom edition)

Marshall Hail has invented the most revolutionary method of energy generation of our time; a reactor that will run on the dirty waste from older-style nuclear power stations, and produce, at the end, waste that is almost safe to handle. However, when his family is killed by religious fundamentalists, Hail turns his attention, and his fortune, to other ends; to technology and people who can enable him to reach out and kill anyone, anywhere. It’s making him the USA Executive’s new favourite problem-solver – and potentially, biggest problem.

Brett Arquette’s Operation: Hail Storm (Classroom Edition) is an interesting, high-tech thriller story in settings bound to excite any tech enthusiast, including super tankers reinvented as secret bases that carry cinemas and rail guns. A great deal of research clearly went into certain areas of the writing; in some cases, the amount of extraneous detail impacted the pacing, but overall the story was well-handled. Playing on the current enthusiasm for drones of all types, the author has created a thought-provoking plot in which drones are used to carry out everything from cutting through walls to high-level assassination. While I found that the writing would have benefited from a thorough copy-edit, by and large this was an enjoyable read, and I would recommend this for anyone fond of action and military-style thrillers.

Appointment with ISIL, Joe Giordano

Appointment with ISIL, Joe Giordano

Appointment with ISIL: an Anthony Provati thriller

Anthony Provati is a nephew of the Mafia. He’s also in denial, running an art gallery and playing piano gigs, until he decides to get involved with the beautiful girlfriend of a Russian mobster, which minor error of judgement narrows his choices down to going to the cops or going to his Uncle Frank. With his illicit girlfriend pushing him to shoot the head of the Russian mob, his cop friend in deep trouble of his own, and the FBI treating the entire affair as a joke, Anthony’s time to figure his way out of the mess he got himself into may be running short.

One of the strong points for me in Appointment with ISIL was its multinational backdrop; the series of countries through which Anthony’s misadventures take him add colour to the plot, and Anthony’s companion on his travels is the character with debatably the most depth in the book: Basso, Uncle Frank’s personal bodyguard. Basso’s quirks, his love of food, and his taste in T-shirts add layers of interest to him that are to some extent missing from many of the other characters.

This story is definitely one of those thrillers that rewards some patience, as it takes a while to get started. The first chapter follows the story of an American woman who decides to take a jaunt into the warzone at Fallujah and unsurprisingly nearly gets herself and everyone with her killed, before the book refocuses on the actual protagonist, Anthony Provati. Anthony has an unfortunate habit of making dumb decisions, but his saving grace is knowing the right people; in this case, an improbable alliance of the New York Mob, the FBI, Mossad, and a few independent agents. Getting these varied teams to fall into line was well-handled in the plot, as the author managed it without ascending to the level of coincidences that would have strained my ability to suspend my disbelief.

Reviewed pre-release

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E., Sam B. Miller II

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E., Sam B. Miller II

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E.

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E. has a plot strongly rooted in classic science-fiction; flying saucers, reptilian aliens, top-secret military bases in the desert working in fields ahead of their time of which the uninitiated are entirely ignorant—you name it.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to really get into this book. The thing that initially threw me was a lack of depth and a certain fatal similarity across the character types; the sociopathic, flesh-loving aliens, the men who were easily identifiable as being in the military because of their square jaws and muscular builds, and the lady scientists in pretty lipstick and alluring hairstyles. I kept going anyway, because sure, sometimes a book takes a chapter or two to really get into the swing of the story, but unfortunately that particular element stayed constant.

Additionally, while the style of the writing was actually very apposite to the plot, the frequent, gung-ho references in the narration to things like preserving the land of the brave and free kept making me want to laugh in inappropriate places, which I don’t think was the intention. There was also a great deal of description, which I found impacted both the realism and the pacing of the story. I don’t need to know what a guy weighs when his primary contribution to the storyline isn’t in a wrestling match, or that the meeting room in which the fate of the planet is discussed has a dimmer switch.

I think that this book would benefit enormously from a strong critique, or better yet, a full developmental edit. There are undeniable strengths in the work, but they’re desperately undermined by other elements of the story and writing.

Forgotten, Neven Carr

Forgotten, Neven Carr

Forgotten

Neven Carr’s Forgotten offers a thrilling mystery approached from two very different viewpoints:  one that of Claudia Cabriati, a young teacher on Australia’s Sunshine Coast with odd gaps in her memory and an unshakeable certainty that she’s being watched, and the other from an underground investigator and troubleshooter, Saul Reardon. Saul is investigating an odd chain of murders that have no apparent links, and a cryptic telephone recording involving a prominent federal senator that mentions a woman named Claudia Cabriati. Saul is known for providing the kind of help to those in need that the law isn’t always capable of, and when Claudia’s fiancé is ritually murdered in their home, some of Claudia’s friends think that Saul’s kind of help may be exactly what Claudia needs…

Forgotten is a great read, the kind of mystery-thriller with more twists than a rollercoaster. From car chases to crooked politicians to Saul’s mysterious past, this book keeps you guessing all the way through, and the immediate, white-hot chemistry between Claudia and Saul is well-done without claiming the spotlight from the main storyline. The characters are expertly developed, each demanding your curiosity and bringing their own personalities, pasts, and plans to bear on the plot. Neven Carr’s exotic locations and gripping action scenes are guaranteed to keep you turning pages and to make you sigh when you hit the last page. A highly-recommended read.