Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “terrorism”

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #92: Troubleshooter by Gregg Hurwitz

This is my first taste of Hurwitz’s character Tim Rackley, a U.S. Marshall with a past charged with hunting down an outlaw biker gang with a deadly secret agenda. Right at the beginning of the novel, Rackley is given a personal motive to smash the gang, when several of its members ambush and shoot Los Angeles police deputy Andrea Rackley, our hero’s 8-month-pregnant wife, and leave her in a coma. The gang, known as the Smiling Sinners, murder and terrorize with impunity, wiping out rival gangs and picking off innocents without a second thought as they enact a carefully-devised plan with national ramifications.

For some reason, the FBI has planted an agent on Rackley’s team of detectives who appears to be stonewalling the team, and it is not until well into the book that we finally learn why, adding another and darker level of tension to the story.  Rackley is also up against a celebrity lady lawyer who works for the Sinners and manages to stymie the detectives at every turn. Fortunately, our hero has a cluster of unorthodox friends who he is able to call on when the team hits a wall, and slowly but surely he is able to pick off bad guys—leaving the gang’s psychotic knifeman Den Laurey still on the loose.

Hurwitz makes sure that his novels are realistic, and his knowledge of motorcyles, weapons, drug smuggling, undercover police operations, even embalming techniques, is carefully researched and expertly—if luridly–displayed. He does not stint on blood and gore and his writing is not for the squeamish. Nonetheless, his multi-layered plot boils with tension, and the excitement will keep you up all night, or two or three, before you turn that last page.

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #84: To Kingdom Come by Will Thomas

Author Thomas returns to mid-19th century England and brings back the dynamic duo of Barker and Llewelyn, this time going undercover as master bomb makers to infiltrate a terrorist Irish gang determined to blow up London in order to win an Irish homeland. Thomas gives us a sympathetic view of the Irish battle for self-rule, even while clearly deploring the tactics to which certain factions of the Irish home movement resort in their desperation to defeat British domination.

Barker has Llewelyn train in the “stick fighting” favored by Irish rebels, and also to study the rudiments of bomb making under Russian anarchist Johannes van Rhyn, a mercenary who sells his expertise to the highest bidder—in this case, to Llewelyn’s employer Barker to whom he owes a debt.  Then the duo goes to Liverpool, a hotbed of rebels inside the belly of the British beast. There, Barker takes on Van Rhyn’s persona and manages to worm his and Llewelyn’s way into a network of Irish terrorists, one of whose leaders has an alluring sister Maire O’Casey. Llewelyn and Maire are deployed by the gang to Paris to buy bomb-making supplies, and Llewelyn falls head over heels with the lovely and multi-faceted Maire.

The terrorists shape a dastardly plot to blow up most of the important government, financial, and law enforcement offices in London, plus bridges and train stations, bombings guaranteed to cause thousands of casualties and, they hope, force the government to yield to their demands. Barker/Van Rhyn and his assistant Llewelyn are initiated into the ring, and required to producedozens of deadly dynamite bombs for distribution throughout London. Their challenge is to have the authorities capture the ring members with their hands on the bombs, while preventing the bombings from taking place. It is a race to the finish to stay out of the hands of Scotland Yard while simultaneously foiling the terrorists.

As always with author Thomas, the story is engaging, the characters are fully-fleshed, the scenes are skillfully set, and the dialogue and action rife with both drama and humor. The one underlying mystery of the novel itself is who the real mover and shaker of the terrorists is: Dunleavy who fought on the Confederate side during the American Civil War and is now a charismatic drunkard with a skill for strategizing, or one of a half-dozen other characters under Barker’s scrutiny. Unfortunately, the final revelation, albeit excitingly presented, was not as dramatic as the author clearly intended—I guessed it long before the denouement.

To Kingdom Come may not be Will Thomas’ best novel to date, but it is a fun read nonetheless.

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #70: The Innocent by David Baldacci

Baldacci’s latest thriller is a decent recovery from Zero Day, his previous most recent novel and an unexpected bomb, in my opinion (see my earlier review). The Innocent has likeable if unoriginal characters, an exciting if somewhat predictable plot, plenty of gore, a touch of romance, and just enough of a political tinge to keep it interesting but still politically correct.

Baldacci once again centers much of the action in the Washington DC/Northern Virginia area he knows so well, and builds his story around a U.S. government assassin who only questions his life and those who deploy him when he is ordered—but refuses–to kill his target, a working mother of two right in the nation’s capitol. She is not the drug cartel boss, terrorist financier, and so forth he usually is sent after, and besides, she has two cute kids. Trained killer Will Robie suddenly discovers he has a soft spot for helpless females, babies, and a smart-ass teenage girl he encounters running for her life. Robie and the girl end up going on the run together, trying to figure out who killed her parents and is after her, and who ordered him to do a bad hit and then tried to kill him.

At first, their two stories appear to be unrelated, but little by little, the clues, the victims, and the story lines cross, until it becomes evident that there is a huge conspiracy afoot, and the players are very high up inside U.S. intelligence, defense and law enforcement. The big disappointment to me is that, while Baldacci’s plot gave him ample ammunition for going after real corruption inside the U.S. political machine, something he has not shied away from in his earlier novels, he instead chose a more clichéd approach in The Innocent. And somehow, I managed to guess rather early in the plot who the ultimate baddie was, and that was a bit of a disappointment for me.

Nonetheless, as far as Baldacci thrillers go, this one had all the right stuff and I’ll confess that I mostly enjoyed it, despite the nagging feeling that I had already read the story–or seen the movie—before.

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #39: Gideon’s Corpse by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I had to read the sequel to Gideon’s Sword, as much to see whether Preston and Child had improved the new series with this, their second novel in the Gideon sequence, as to find out whether the hero was indeed facing a terminal disease or whether that was just a lie constructed by a behind-the scenes semi-private agency to manipulate him into becoming their super-agent against his will. I found out that the authors had somehow managed to produce another fun read, whose plot was however just as improbable and, unfortunately, just as poorly constructed as the first novel, and that Gideon’s illness is … well, I’ll leave that revelation to the die-hard Preston and Child fans who will read this book no matter what.

In this novel, Gideon is dragged into an apparent hostage situation, where a former colleague from the Los Alamos nuclear lab where Gideon works is holding a family at gunpoint. The guy eventually dies in a hail of bullets, but is discovered to be highly-radioactive. The powers-that-be conclude that the guy, a recently-converted Muslim, had in fact been building a nuclear bomb for Islamic jihadists, and panic begins to spread across the country and, more importantly, across Washington, as every government enforcement agency is brought in to establish protection/evacuation scenarios for potential targets ranging from the White House to the Hoover Dam. The real terrorist scenario is quite different, however, and the bad guys pulling the strings have, in fact, wrapped themselves in the American flag. It falls to Gideon and a slightly rogue FBI agent to save the day.

As plots go, this one seems interesting enough – until one gets into the details of the story and that’s where things go badly off the rails. Gideon jumps around like the ball in a pin-ball machine, careening from city to city and situation to situation, surviving repeated death-traps with skills that even James Bond couldn’t claim, having romantic interludes and making enemies, and yet somehow saving the day against impossible—I repeat, impossible!—odds.  Worst of all is the ending, a schlock anti-climax unworthy of these authors.

Immediately after reading Gideon’s Corpse, I read Preston & Child’s Cold Vengeance (review to follow), the latest in their Pendergast series, and was struck by the dramatic difference in quality between the two. While I won’t go so far as one reviewer, who concluded that the Gideon series had actually been written by one of the author’s wannabe-writer offspring, I do think that Preston and Child may have been lured by Hollywood into producing a series of novels designed for film—which would go far to explain the ultimate absurdity of the plots, the implausibility of the characters, and the generally slapdash writing.  Now that I think of it, the Pendergast novels contain equally wild plots, but somehow the characters –even the superhuman hero of the series—are more appealing and the writing much richer and more compelling. Go figure!

Post Navigation