Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Operator Down: A Pike Logan Thriller #12 by Brad Taylor

Operator Down: A Pike Logan Thriller #12. Brad Taylor. Dutton/Penguin Random House Publishing Group. January 2018. 464 pp.  ISBN#: 9781101984819.

The Taskforce is back again with Pike Logan, Knuckles and Jenny actively working a simple surveillance mission.  Their job is to find out if a certain party involved in the Israeli diamond business is involved in a plot that could seriously embarrass and damage Israel’s reputation on a world-wide scale.  But the simple mission blows up and goes awry, winding up with Pike’s good Israeli friends, Aaron and Shoshanna in serious trouble. 

Aaron is kidnapped by South African forces who believe he is spying for America or Israel against their takeover of the government in Lesotho, South Africa.  Shoshanna is a secret Israeli, former Mossad, agent who is a hot-tempered killing machine who turns deadly at the slightest attempt at deception. 

The plot thickens and it turns out the Taskforce has wandered smack into a military coup in Lesotho and a plot by an American arms dealer to sell “triggers” for putting together a nuclear bomb to the right bidder.  The latter must be stopped and that part of the plot is told in fragments as the kidnapping of Aaron takes precedence.   Shoshanna doesn’t believe the group is doing enough to rescue her husband Aaron and so spends most of the novel alternatively going rogue when inflamed and cooperating when the Taskforce proves they are being trustful and loving.

The Taskforce follows its usual game plan of tracking the multi-layered group of “bad guys” who are either involved in nuclear arms dealing or government takeovers. At times it’s a bit drawn out and too long. However, bones break, bodies fly, and death is an ever-distracting moment away for all the characters involved in this mission. 

Shoshanna prevails as the main character here, at points even turning against Pike and Jennifer.  The force of her character leaves the readers breathless.  Indeed the ending of the novel will also leave the reader stunned, far distant from what one expected.  Again, a thriller that’s great adventure and a true international spy story to rival its counterparts in the genre!

A Reckoning in the Back Country: A Samuel Craddock Mystery by Terry Shames

A Reckoning in the Back Country: A Samuel Craddock Mystery. Terry Shames. Prometheus Books. January 2018. 272 pp. ISBN#: 9781633883673.

A relatively new resident, a neurologist from San Antonio, is vacationing in Jarret Creek, Texas, with his wife. They are intending to become permanent residents but suddenly he is reported missing by his wife.  While she seems upset about this disappearance, Acting Police Chief Samuel Craddock senses something not quite right in her nervous appearance and shifty looks.  All of this is aggravated when her husband’s dead body is found.  He has been gruesomely mutilated by what looks like an animal attack.

The plot centers around dog fighting, a “sport” this reviewer is not familiar with.  Readers will learn more than they want to about how these fights are organized, the training involved, the role of other dogs as what one can only call “bait.”  One also finds out that the murdered victim was running away from the shame of a malpractice case and has an addiction of gambling that’s far beyond wagers other gamblers are willing to accept. 

The investigation itself involves Craddock interviewing people who knew the doctor and people who know about the rumors of dog fights.  While there’s a bit much of repetitive questions, Craddock keeps the investigation moving with some characters being threatened and others being attacked as the conclusion draws near.

Craddock finds that the victim owned a boat; but when he hires someone to look for the missing boat, nothing is found.  Why did the marina owner fail to conduct the search Craddock asked for?

Add to the mix a very slowly moving romance that is a nice counter-balance to the intensity of the crime and its perpetrators.  The Craddock mysteries have just enough tension to keep the reader interested, without being overbearing.  Nicely done, again, Terry Shames!