Blue Moon by Lee Child: A Very Timely Novel Puts Reacher in One of the Most Dangerous Positions He’s Been In

Blue Moon

Blue Moon

by Lee Child
Series: Jack Reacher, #24

Hardcover, 356 pg.
Delacorte Press, 2019

Read: December 2-3, 2019

Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

“We should be magnanimous in victory. Someone said that.”

“Full disclosure,” Reacher said. “I told you before. I’m a certain kind of person. Is the guy in the trunk still breathing?”

“I don’t know,” Abby said.

“But there’s a possibility.”

“Yes, there’s a possibility.”

“That’s me being magnanimous in victory. Normally I kill them, kill their families, and piss on their ancestors’ graves.”

“I never know when you’re kidding me.”

“I guess that’s true.”

“Are you saying you’re not kidding me now?”

“I’m saying in my case magnanimity is in short supply.”

“You’re taking food to an old couple in the middle of the night.”

“That’s a different word than magnanimous.”

“Still a nice gesture.”

“Because one day I could be them. But I’ll never be the guy in the trunk.”

“So it’s purely tribal,” Abby said. “Your kind of people, or the other kind.”

“My kind of people, or the wrong kind.”

“Who’s in your tribe?”

“Almost nobody,” Reacher said. “I live a lonely life.”

Reacher is on a bus bound for somewhere. He sees an older man being targeted for a mugging (both he and the would-be thief have noticed a fat envelope that seems to be holding cash). When the man and his predator get off at some city, Reacher abandons his planned trip to follow along.

Obviously, he foils the mugging, but the older man is injured, so Reacher appoints himself a guardian and assistant until he can get the man home. He learns that this man and his wife are in debt to a Ukrainian loan shark, and it’s not looking good. They got in this state due to some incredibly believable bad luck, and Reacher decides to take it upon himself to get them out of it. Maybe not permanently, but at least for the foreseeable future. He has essentially one week to extricate them from their current predicament, and Reacher is hopefully going to beat that clock and get back on the road.

We’re not told what city this takes place in, it doesn’t matter—it’s a small-to-medium sized city with two competing crime syndicates. One is a Ukranian mob, the other is an Albanian mob. They each control half the city, with a very clear line of demarcation. They’re currently enjoying an uneasy peace, and are nervous about a new police commissioner coming soon—neither group has been able to find a way to manipulate or bribe him and they’re in his sights. Before I forget, I want to say that I love that both groups speak/write in unbroken English—I get why other authors use broken English for these kinds of characters, but it feels less cartoonish this way.

Once Reacher starts doing his thing, a little comedy happens. Reacher is trying to do X. The Ukrainians see the effects and assume the Albanians are doing Y. The Albanians see the effects and assume the Ukrainians are up to Z. The clear messages Reacher is sure he’s sending aren’t being received by anyone. Before long the two factions are on the brink of war—which is the last thing that anyone wants.

While he’s trying to help out this older couple, Reacher befriends a waitress, Abby. Soon, she leads him to some other allies—a couple of musicians (one a former Marine) and a security consultant who used to be a Company Commander in an Armored Division in Europe during the Cold War. There’s some good-natured chest-thumping between the three veterans which helps lighten to tension.

Abby is tough and smart. She reminded me a lot of Patty from Past Tense—she adapts to the dangerous situation she finds herself in pretty well. She’s not crazy about it, she’s pretty freaked out, honestly. But she pulls herself together enough to help Reacher as well as being his conscience occasionally (she’s less willing than he is to leave a trail of bodies in their wake). Like Patty, once things get rolling, Abby starts analyzing her situation and what’s going on with the Ukrainians/Albanians in a very Reacher-esque way.

What makes this one distinctive from others in the series? It feels very ripped-from-the-headlines. Not in the sense that Law & Order based stories on actual events, but in that it addresses a handful of things that are in the news practically every day lately. Sure, Reacher frequently deals with real issues, but this seems the most timely since Gone Tomorrow a decade ago (I could be wrong about that, but that’s the one that jumps to mind without taking time to review the details of each of the 23 previous novels). I don’t think Child could/should keep that up, but doing something so fresh-feeling every now and then would be a great idea.

Also, Reacher seems a bit different—still Reacher, I’m not saying that Child’s changing him, but he’s not quite his usual self. For starters, he seems more inclined to a “kill ’em all” approach to the various criminals (especially later in the novel). Now, this could be because he wants to ensure the safety of this older couple who really can’t defend themselves, so he’s getting the defense in pre-emptively. The other possibility I can think of is that he assumes there’s only one language both organizations will understand.

The other difference is Reacher seems more mortal, at least more aware of his mortality. He tells Mrs. Shevick that he knows he will be beaten one day—but today isn’t that day. He’s also more obviously lonely (not just because of the semi-joking material quoted above). It’s like being that lone wandering warrior is taking its toll on Reacher. We’ve seen this before from time to time, but it seems to be growing lately. I remember reading in Martin’s Reacher Said Nothing that Child had considered retiring the series around The Midnight Line, I can’t help but wonder if this is a sign of that becoming imminent.

A stronger cast of non-“Bad Guy” characters than we’re used to seeing from this series, a winning female lead, some tragic victims, a bunch of ruthless criminals, a lot of bullets flying and Reacher at his toughest. There’s so little to not like here. One of my favorites lately.


4 1/2 Stars

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Fletch, Too (Audiobook) by Gregory McDonald, Dan John Miller: Fletch’s Ski Trip to Nairobi

Fletch, Too

Fletch, Too

Gregory McDonald, Dan John Miller (Narrator)
Series: Fletch, #9 (#2 Chronologically)

Unabridged Audiobook, 5 hrs., and 43 mins.
Blackstone Audio, 2019

Read: August 21-22, 2019


Up to this point, we know practically nothing about Fletch’s personal life—he’s been married (and divorced) twice and engaged once or twice in addition to that. He’s carried on an on-again/off-again relationship with Moxie Mooney. Served with valor in the Army, made a couple of good friends there. That’s pretty much it—most of what we know about Fletch is about his professional life—and then the amateur sleuthing/investigative journalism he’s done since he didn’t kill Alan Stanwyck. We know next to nothing about his family, his childhood, and so on.

In Fletch, Too McDonald decides to fix that. Picking up right after Fletch Won (like a day or two after) with his first wedding, the revelations start right away. We meet Fletch’s mother, a mystery novelist of some renown (but perhaps not of the highest caliber). After the ceremony, he’s handed a letter from someone claiming to be his father. Fletch had been told that his father had “died in childbirth,” so he’s taken aback by this. The letter describes (briefly) why his father had not been around for his life and that he’s “mildly curious” about his son. If Fletch is at least “mildly curious” about his father, he’s invited to visit him in Nairobi for their honeymoon, tickets are enclosed.

More than mildly curious, and driven to get some answers (or at least a good story), the two hop that plane (bringing their luggage and skis packed for a trip to Colorado). At this point, it stops being a standard Fletch novel and becomes something more akin to Carioca, Fletch. Before they leave the airport, Fletch witnesses a murder (unbeknownst to the murderer).

Fletch makes a couple of attempts to investigate the murder, but due to circumstances, a language barrier, police not given to outsiders’ help, and the lack of anything to go off of, he doesn’t get far. In fact, minor spoiler, the only reason Fletch “solves” the murder is that he recognizes the killer toward the end of the book. Which makes for a fairly unsatisfying “mystery” novel.

Where this book gets interesting is as Fletch and his wife meet some locals, explore the city, and meet a colleague of his father’s. We’re treated to a look at the culture, legal system (or lack thereof), history and some speculative Archeology about the area. It’s interesting—but it feels more like McDonald had an interesting vacation, read some good books on the region and/or had some great conversations with people from Nairobi and wanted to share what he’d learned (again, see, Carioca, Fletch).

I think I appreciated this more than the other non-standard Fletch because 1. I came in with low expectations (remembering how little I liked it) and 2. the supporting characters are more interesting.

At this point, I assume (and am supported by experience) that Miller will do a capable job with the Narration and he helped me enjoy the experience.

This is one for completists, for those who are curious about Fletch’s backstory, or for those who have a hankering for learning about Kenya. It’s not a bad book, it’s just not as good as it should be.


3 Stars
2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Dawn of Dreams by Bronwyn Leroux (AND KINDLE GIVEAWAY)

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the YA SF&F Dawn of Dreams by Bronwyn Leroux. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit. Be sure to check out the Kindle Giveaway at the bottom of this post. But let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?


Book Details:

Book Title: Dawn of Dreams by Bronwyn Leroux
Release date: July 25, 2017
Format: Paperback/Ebook
Length: 298 pages

Book Blurb:

Lost family heirlooms. Sinister mutants. An ancient book hiding legendary secrets. Such mythical things should not exist in the futuristic world of 2073.

Yet, this reality is forced on two strangers. Jaden and Kayla are blissfully unaware their world is about to be invaded. When a relentless, age-old force casts them together, the shocking truth is revealed. They are hunted by the hideous, malevolent monster prowling their community. Worse, it’s invisible to everyone but them.

Forced down a dark and dangerous path, the pair discover their stalker isn’t the only thing they have in common. As they quest for solutions while trying to survive, their unique abilities surface. They team up with other-worldy allies. After deciphering an enchanted tool, they get their first answer. But knowledge comes at a price.

In a world on the verge of destruction, can Jaden and Kayla solve the puzzles and find a way to save it, all while trying to make sense of this inexplicable connection they feel for each other?

About Bronwyn Leroux:

Bronwyn LerouxBorn near the famed gold mines of South Africa (where dwarves are sure to prowl), it was the perfect place for Bronwyn to begin her adventures. They took her to another province, her Prince Charming and finally, half a world away to the dark palace of San Francisco. While the majestic Golden Gate Bridge and its Bay views were spectacular, the magical pull of the Colorado Rockies was irresistible. Bronwyn’s family set off to explore yet again. Finding a sanctuary at last, this is Bronwyn’s perfect place to create alternative universes. Here, her mind can roam and explore and she can conjure up fantastical books for young adults.

Follow her at https://bronwynleroux.com or https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBronwynLeroux/

Social Networks:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Instagram

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Kobo ~ Nook

Kindle Giveaway:

For your chance to win a an 8GB Black Kindle Fire 7 with Alexa, click here.

Terms and Conditions: Giveaway starts November 23rd and ends at midnight MST on December 2nd 2019. Entries are open to all ages and countries. You will be asked to provide your email address which will subscribe you to Bronwyn Leroux’s mailing list. You can unsubscribe at any time. Bronwyn Leroux will contact the winner via email on December 4th. The winner will also be announced via Bronwyn Leroux’s social media channels. There is no cash alternative.

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

Thieves by Steven Max Russo: 2 Crooks, 1 Realtor, 1 Housekeeper and a Whole Lot of Thievery

Thieves

Thieves

by Steven Max Russo

Kindle Edition, 280 pg.
Down & Out Books, 2018

Read: November 11-15, 2019

Last month, I posted my thoughts on Steven Max Russo’s second novel, The Dead Don’t Sleep, and now I get to focus on his first book.

Skooley (I kid you not), is a small-time criminal with aspirations of greater things (and, let’s be honest, delusions of at least a bit more grandeur than he actually possess). He runs afoul of actual bad guys in Florida and makes himself scarce, hiding out in New Jersey for awhile. He gets a job in a restaurant and meets Ray. Ray isn’t as an accomplished thief as Skooley, but he’d like to be. And he knows where to start: their fellow co-worker Esmeralda had an idea.

You see, she’s got aspirations and dreams of her own. Hers are on the legal side, it’s nice to say. She’s a housekeeper, a restaurant hostess at night, and does some grunt work at a hair salon when she’s not working as either of those. She’s trying to save money for beauty school while taking care of her mother and younger siblings. She’s making progress, but it’s slow and she could really use a little boost.

Esmerelda tells Ray about the owners of a house that she cleans who take off for a month or so every year at this time. They’re the kind of people who leave cash and expensive things around with no one to check on them. Ray tells Skooley.

So Ray and Skooley break and enter, with the idea of spending a couple of days carefully and thoroughly pillaging this house. Almost immediately, things don’t go according to plan and the three conspirators are mired in distrust, frustration, and assorted moments of larceny.

There’s a subplot involving a real estate agent named Loretta. She blows off a little steam one night after work by having a little too much to drink. Somewhere between being one and three sheets to the wind, she runs into Skooley on a break from his plundering. In case there was any doubt at this point for the reader, what happens next definitely qualifies Skooley as a villain. Other than that, it wasn’t until the very end of the book that I saw anything redeeming about this storyline. Once I did, it all made sense. But man, I spent a long time wondering just what Russo was trying to accomplish with it.

I wouldn’t call this fast-paced, it’s more of a slow-build. More than that, it’s steady and always tantalizing about what’s coming next. Steady enough that you won’t want to put it down.

This is really an Elmore Leonard-esque plot and batch of characters, but it has none of Leonard’s style. Which is not a complaint—I’m trying to describe, not challenge—if he’d tried, I’d spend a few paragraphs describing the ways that someone who isn’t Elmore Leonard shouldn’t try to ape his style. Instead, you get the same types of characters in tight situations, which is good enough.

There are really two conclusions to this novel—and both are a lot more satisfying than anything I thought the novel might be leading to. And the last line is a killer, make no mistake.

All in all, a solid Crime novel featuring lowlifes, misguided people, and a few hardcore bad guys. It’s also enough evidence for myself that I’m going to grab the next Russo novel in a heartbeat. I dug this one, I think you will, too.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. I am grateful for that, but not so grateful that I changed my opinion.


3 Stars

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Angel Eyes by Ace Atkins: Spenser’s 47th Novel Finds him in L.A. and Feels as Fresh as Ever

Angel Eyes

Robert B. Parker’s Angel Eyes

by Ace Atkins
Series: Spenser, #7

Hardcover, 305 pg.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019

Read: November 20-21, 2019

In the passing light, I noticed the welts on her wrists, chapped and bloody.

She’d been tied up for a long time.

Chollo noticed them, too.

“Should we kill him?” he said.

“Too easy.”

“You will never change, amigo,” he said. When will you learn? Some people live without rules. And sometimes killing a bad man is the only way.”

“I have other ideas for [him].”

Chollo nodded. “And I am listening”

The day that Hawk, Chollo (and a few others) stop trying to convince Spenser to just kill the bad guy and be done with it—or the day that he listens to them—is the day we’ll all know the series has run its course. Which will hopefully be around the time my future grandchildren start reading the series.

But far before we get to that point, we should probably start at the beginning.

A friend of Susan’s is worried about her daughter, who lives in L.A. and has gone missing. She’s beside herself, so Spenser flies out to find her with Zebulon Sixkill’s help. The book opens with Spenser and Z being let into Gabby’s apartment by her ex-boyfriend and still-agent, Eric Collinson. Collinson is typically the kind of twerp that Spenser would enjoy messing with, but he’s on his best behavior (probably to keep Collinson talking).

Collinson keeps insisting there’s nothing to worry about, that Gabby’s probably just off on a quick Mexican vacation or something. Still, he surreptitiously leaves her laptop behind for Spenser to “find.” Between what Z’s tech-wizard friend finds on the laptop, what Z and Spenser get from the LAPD (in the person of our old acquaintance Samuelson) and Gabby friends/former boss, there are two avenues of investigation for them to dive into. A powerful studio executive and a multi-level personal development group that’s somewhere in-between Scientology and NXIVM (far closer to the latter). But before they can dig too far into things, some heavies representing a third party show up and the lead starts flying.

And I ate it all up.

It’s dangerous enough that Z isn’t enough to help Spenser out. Chollo (now a small-businessman), Bobby Horse and Mr. del Rio put in appearances and render assistance in varying amounts.

I could easily keep going along these lines for 6-10 more paragraphs, but I’d better show some restraint and leave things there and move onto other parts of the book.

In addition to the hunt for Gabby, we get a little bit of Spenser’s jaded view of the entertainment industry (largely in the same vein as we saw in A Savage Place and Stardust, just up-to-date); a lot of references to movies and stars that are so irrelevant to contemporary Hollywood that most of the characters don’t get them; and a very jaded (but likely accurate) look at “The Industry” post-#MeToo.

Also, we get a hint or two at what Z’s been up to since he left Boston and Atkins has completely left the possibility open for someone to start a Sixkill series, already populated with a cast of characters to carry a book or two. I’m ready to buy at least 5 of them in hardcover right now.

The last little things that I’ll mention are that we get a nice update on Mattie Sullivan, but we need to see more of her soon. Plus, there’s a cameo that filled my heart with joy here—that’s all I’m going to say about it.

Atkins is in fine form, which comes as no surprise to anyone. I didn’t spend too much time comparing him to Parker as I read it, but you can’t help but do it. It’s a fast, breezy style, but there are depths to be plumbed (unlike several of Parker’s latter Spensers). It’s just a pleasure to bask in the language, dialogue, and characters.

At this point, when it comes to an Atkins Spenser novel, it’s really just a question of how much I’m going to like it, it’d be impossible (I wager) for him to deliver something that I won’t like. I liked this one plenty. A fine story, a setting the character hasn’t been in for a while, a chance to catch up with old friends . . . Angel Eyes is as satisfying as you could ask for. Could you start with it? Sure. You wouldn’t get all of the references, but none of them would impact your appreciation of the story. The only danger in starting with Angel Eyes is that you’d probably feel compelled to go back and read the previous 46. Which actually sounds like a lot of fun to me.

I hemmed and hawed over the stars on this one. If I had a 4 1/4 graphic, I probably would’ve employed it. My initial impulse was 4 Stars, but when I stop and think about: there was one page where I laughed out loud (at least a chuckle) multiple times (I really want to talk about it in detail, but don’t want to ruin anything); the way Atkins pulled in every L.A. reference possible (plus some other Spenser-canon references) without making it feel like checking off a list; and the feeling of dread and worry Atkins was able to elicit (which really doesn’t happen all that often in long-running series)…I’ve gotta give it that extra bump (and now that I’ve actually written that list, I’m thinking of bumping it up another).


4 1/2 Stars

2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

An Accidental Death (Audiobook) by Peter Grainger, Gildart Jackson: A Bit of Routine Paperwork with Anything but Routine Results

An Accidental Death

An Accidental Death

by Peter Grainger, Gildart Jackson (Narrator)
Series: A DC Smith Investigation, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 6 hrs., 52 min.
Tantor Audio, 2016

Read: November 18-19, 2019

‘When you’re in front of a promotion board, one of the favourite questions is ‘So what motivates you in your daily work, Chris?’

‘Promotion? I’ll be relieved if I get through my six months. So what’s the correct answer?’

‘Oh, there are lots, you can buy them in books. But you could think about this,’ and Smith nodded towards the little group still standing at the graveside. ‘I’m just not sure how you put it into words.’

‘Revenge? Justice?’

‘For the victim – for Wayne Fletcher? Not how I see it, he’s beyond all that. Death’s the end of all. But look at the misery we’ve seen today. And it’s endless, it goes on rippling back and forwards through all these lives forever. I don’t know about justice. I’ve never seen myself on a white charger, righting wrongs – but we have to catch people so that they can’t create all this again. And so that other people get the message – you will be caught, you will pay. We never know how many selfish acts we prevent when we show people the consequences, but we have to keep showing them the consequences. These are the consequences.’

Smith had raised a hand, palm open towards the new grave.

Here we meet Detective Sergeant D. C. Smith—which isn’t At. All. confusing when listening to an audiobook, “I thought he was a DS, why is everyone calling him DC?” (thankfully, Grainger explains it after a bit). He’s a still-grieving widower, a long-serving detective, who has some sort of Intelligence experience in his past, has been of a higher rank, and has broken at least one near-legendary case years before. You wouldn’t think this résumé would be a type, but I’ve read about three Detective Sergeants this year that fit that description. That’s not a criticism, it’s just odd. DC Smith is my favorite exemplar of this type.

DC Smith is fresh off a brief leave in the aftermath of some case that was clearly divisive in the detective squad—and we never learn the details about it (which is frustrating, yet oddly compelling, and I almost hope we never learn the details about it), and is assigned to a new DI. Alison Reeve used to be a protégé of Smith’s, making things a bit awkward, but she also trusts him a lot more than other superiors seem to. He doesn’t have a team at the moment but gets to train a fresh DC, Chris Waters. Waters is an excellent device to get readers to see how Smith thinks/acts, because he has to keep explaining to Waters why he’s doing what he does.

For his first few days back, Reeve hands Smith some busy work including an anti-drugs presentation at some schools (quick aside—I loved his presentation, reminiscent of Bill Hick’s bit about the “this is your brain on drugs”) and a final sign-off on the paperwork about an accidental death. There’s a note on the autopsy that niggles at Smith and he starts looking into the accident. The initial investigation and paperwork were done just right, but . . .

Smith remembers a former colleague saying:

If you’re going to start turning over stones, you’ve got to turn them all over, every bloody one, even the littlest pebble…

Nevertheless, Smith starts turning over stones. And then more stones and more. Before he knows it, Smith and Waters find themselves mixed up in something nobody could’ve predicted—international intrigue, military secrets, family secrets, political pressure, and so on.

All leading to a great conclusion/face-off that will show off new sides of Smith (and show a Waters’ mettle), with a postscript that seems predictable (but I’m not sure it was supposed to be)—but ties off the novel so nicely that I don’t care.

I’ve listened to one other book narrated by Gildart Jackson (Fated by Benedict Jacka), and while I thought he did fine with that one, he really seemed to connect with the character and the way he handled the narration and character voice seemed to fit the words/tone perfectly. I almost think I couldn’t read a future book in this series in print, I might have to come back for more.

There’s something about this one that got under my skin more than a typical procedural does—it’s maybe DC Smith, it’s maybe Grainger’s style (there’s a lot of subtle humor in a dark text)—it’s a Gestalt thing, I think. I really dug it.

Early on, Smith tells a couple of Fletcher’s friends:

‘As much as we might like this just to be about the facts, it never is. It never can be because people are always more complicated than facts.

Not only is that a catchy little bon mot, having a character who bases his work on it is about as good as “Everyone Counts or Nobody Counts” for his readers. An Accidental Death is a compelling read exploring an event that is more complicated than just facts and that’ll leave you wanting to come back for more.

This is checking off the “A book recommended by someone you trust.” box from the While I Was Reading Challenge, so I should probably mention that my friend, Micah, has been telling me to read these books (he additionally recommended the audiobooks, which is why I went audio with this one) since December 2017 (according to Goodreads). I really should’ve listened to him long before this. Not only does he have great taste, he’s a great photographer, take a moment to stop by his spiffy website and see.


4 Stars

✔ A book recommended by someone you trust.

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Pub Day Repost: Going Rogue by Neil Lancaster: Tom Novak and His Own Brand of Justice are Back!

Going Rogue

Going Rogue

by Neil Lancaster
Series: Tom Novak Thriller, #2

Kindle Edition, 322 pg.
Burning Chair Publishing, 2019

Read: November 12-14, 2019

I’m a little afraid that this doesn’t sound positive. It should because I enjoyed the book. I shelved the post for a day and tweaked it to help. But, if anything, I think I sound less positive than I did before. So here’s what this post is supposed to say: Great first part, really strong second part, with a couple of hiccups. Hopefully, that’s what you get out of it.

Following his exploits in Going Dark, DS Tom Novak has got himself a new assignment. He’s part of a task force investigating corrupt public figures—politicians, police, military, judiciary and whatnot. This is a much better fit for him than his old job, with a supervisor that he won’t have to battle with (much)—as this series progresses, I really look forward to spending more time with this group.

When a new domestic terrorist group begins attacking Muslim targets, the nation goes on high alert. It’s clear that the terrorists aren’t amatuers—they likely have military training and it’s possible they have assistance from someone in the government or police as well. Enter Novak’s group (every officer in London is looking to get into the hunt for the terrorists, but this team has a legitmate interest).

The man who carried out the first mission is in prison and he’s really the only lead anyone has into the Aryan Defence Front. Novak enters the prison as a Slovenian veteran under suspicion for the murder of a Muslim to gain his trust and hopefully an invitation to enlist. I really can’t describe more of the plot than that, as much as I want to—you need to see what happens from there.

The ADF is a small, but very well organized (and funded) group looking to create and increase divisions between Muslims and Non-Muslims in England—leading to Whites vs. Everyone Else with public riots, mayhem and the rest until supposed Right Thinking and Superior Whites kick everyone else off the island. Something about this group seems easier to believe than similar groups in other novels that I’ve read in the last couple of years—I can’t put my finger on why that is, I’ll just run with it and enjoy it.

There are basically two parts to this book (oversimplification warning) as there was to Going Dark—the undercover work and then what Novak has to do unofficially, using very un-approved methods. The undercover work portion of the book is just great. Yeah, he has to work a little faster than he did in Going Dark, but the short time-frame to get implanted with the group felt legitimate enough (I really hate it when UC officers are put into an inner circle within days of starting). In fact, this part being fast-paced really added to the tension and heightened the drama. Sadly (speaking for the characters’ viewpoint, not the readers’), as effective as the police are—they’re not enough, so Novak ends up Going Rouge to mop up with a little help from his friends that helped him so much last time.

I really have no complaints at all about the part where Novak “goes rogue” to get his man. However, the parts of the book focusing on his undercover work were much more interesting—they’re gripping, taught and seem more realistic. Given that, watching Novak and his allies take the rogue/extraordinary steps to get the job done—it is so hard to talk about this without ruining anything—was a blast. I did (and do) wince at what happens to one of his allies, it’s a relatively minor form of torture, but it literally curls my toes to think about. But aside from that

My biggest complaint is in the dialogue—and it’s not that big of a complaint, I should stress. There were two or three occasions where it seemed to me like that a character essentially repeated themselves. I’m not sure that I was clear there. An example (using the dullest dialogue ever):
George: I watched this TV show last night.
Liza: Good to know.
George: After my evening meal, I viewed a television program.
Sure, people do this all the time in real life, but 1. They are dull to talk to; and 2. I want fictional dialogue to be better than real life (if for no other reason than: editing). Also, some of the threats made by the bad guys toward the end seemed a little lifeless. This is their chance to shine, put some oomph into it.

Then again, if you’re reading a thriller for the sparkling dialogue, you’re probably looking in the wrong place.

Again, nothing against Tom Novak, Action Hero; but Tom Novak, Good Policeman is more up my alley. But either Tom Novak is a real pleasure to read—Going Rogue is filled with great action, a strong protagonist with some good supporting characters, and villains you really want to see thwarted and punished. This is just what you want in a thriller.

I do think that Going Dark was a slightly more effective and polished work, but I won’t hesitate to recommend this one—and I’m already eager to see what Novak is Going to do next.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion. I sincerely thank him for this.


3.5 Stars

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