Pub Day Repost: Skyjack by K. J. Howe

SkyjackSkyjack

by K. J. Howe
Series: Thea Paris, #2
eARC, 400 pg.
Quercus Books, 2018
Read: March 26 – 28, 2018

Waiting for the call to be patched through, Thea stared at the black and yellow symbol on the canisters. It wasn’t every day she was in the same room with enough nuclear material to start World War Three.

When it comes to imminent threats in this book, believe it or not, that’s not the worst.

So Thea is escorting a couple of former child-soldiers from their orphanage in Africa to their new parents when the jet they’re on is taken over by the pilot and lands near an out-of-the-way and nearly deserted hanger. Thea is separated from the other passengers — including the boys — who are taken to another site. She soon discovers that this was, in part, orchestrated by an Italian mob boss she’d tangled with before in a roundabout way of hiring Quantum International Security and getting them to adhere to a very strict deadline (I’m oversimplifying, obviously, but that’s the essence).

Both the hijacking and the task set before them put Thea, Rif and the rest of the company right in the middle of overlapping schemes involving secret armies that have been active since the end of World War II. These were originally set up to be the core of the resistance against Communist invasion, but in the intervening decades may have evolved into something else. Something scary.

Howe nails the interweaving storylines — there’s the hijacking story, and the plight of the passengers who aren’t Thea; there’s the tasks that the hijackers impose on Thea for their safe return; there’s whatever else the Italian mob is up to; there’s an Austrian secret army set out to attack a threat they perceive as more dire than the Communists they were set up to fight; and there’s one person who is out to stop the Austrians. These are all grounded by some good interpersonal stories and moments. The plotting and pacing are tight and believable. Howe will suck you in and keep you turning the pages.

Howe can write action scenes that stack up with the best. The events on the plane were dynamite — I knew Thea would make it, but I could’ve believed just about anything else would happen. Also, it’s going to be awhile before I think of those locked cabin doors in the same positive way we’re supposed to. There’s some great combat scenes, a few action scenes that might as well be on a movie screen.

My complaints are pretty minor, really. I thought a lot of the emotional motivations for behaviors were a tad shallow or rushed, all of them were valid and honest to the characters — I just think they could’ve been written better. It’s tough to pick out examples without entering spoiler territory. So let me vaguely mention that the level of hate spouted by the head of the Austrian group, and the way he expressed it, sounds more like a guy spouting off on Twitter than a very successful businessman who is charismatic enough to get many to commit to a cause. The growing/evolving relationship between Thea and Rif continues the path begun in The Freedom Broker. and Howe could’ve been more subtle and less repetitive showing that. I do enjoy watching this — and figure I will over a few books.

I enjoyed this ride — it had the requisite twists and turns, exciting, tense, well-paced — everything you want in a thriller. It ticked off just about every box you want in a thriller. Yes, it was lacking that certain je ne sais quoi that kicks it up into the “I’m excited to read” level, but I’m pleased I did and will keep my eyes peeled for Thea Paris #3.

—–

3 Stars

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Quercus Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

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Skyjack by K. J. Howe

SkyjackSkyjack

by K. J. Howe
Series: Thea Paris, #2

eARC, 400 pg.
Quercus Books, 2018
Read: March 26 – 28, 2018

Waiting for the call to be patched through, Thea stared at the black and yellow symbol on the canisters. It wasn’t every day she was in the same room with enough nuclear material to start World War Three.

When it comes to imminent threats in this book, believe it or not, that’s not the worst.

So Thea is escorting a couple of former child-soldiers from their orphanage in Africa to their new parents when the jet they’re on is taken over by the pilot and lands near an out-of-the-way and nearly deserted hanger. Thea is separated from the other passengers — including the boys — who are taken to another site. She soon discovers that this was, in part, orchestrated by an Italian mob boss she’d tangled with before in a roundabout way of hiring Quantum International Security and getting them to adhere to a very strict deadline (I’m oversimplifying, obviously, but that’s the essence).

Both the hijacking and the task set before them put Thea, Rif and the rest of the company right in the middle of overlapping schemes involving secret armies that have been active since the end of World War II. These were originally set up to be the core of the resistance against Communist invasion, but in the intervening decades may have evolved into something else. Something scary.

Howe nails the interweaving storylines — there’s the hijacking story, and the plight of the passengers who aren’t Thea; there’s the tasks that the hijackers impose on Thea for their safe return; there’s whatever else the Italian mob is up to; there’s an Austrian secret army set out to attack a threat they perceive as more dire than the Communists they were set up to fight; and there’s one person who is out to stop the Austrians. These are all grounded by some good interpersonal stories and moments. The plotting and pacing are tight and believable. Howe will suck you in and keep you turning the pages.

Howe can write action scenes that stack up with the best. The events on the plane were dynamite — I knew Thea would make it, but I could’ve believed just about anything else would happen. Also, it’s going to be awhile before I think of those locked cabin doors in the same positive way we’re supposed to. There’s some great combat scenes, a few action scenes that might as well be on a movie screen.

My complaints are pretty minor, really. I thought a lot of the emotional motivations for behaviors were a tad shallow or rushed, all of them were valid and honest to the characters — I just think they could’ve been written better. It’s tough to pick out examples without entering spoiler territory. So let me vaguely mention that the level of hate spouted by the head of the Austrian group, and the way he expressed it, sounds more like a guy spouting off on Twitter than a very successful businessman who is charismatic enough to get many to commit to a cause. The growing/evolving relationship between Thea and Rif continues the path begun in The Freedom Broker. and Howe could’ve been more subtle and less repetitive showing that. I do enjoy watching this — and figure I will over a few books.

I enjoyed this ride — it had the requisite twists and turns, exciting, tense, well-paced — everything you want in a thriller. It ticked off just about every box you want in a thriller. Yes, it was lacking that certain je ne sais quoi that kicks it up into the “I’m excited to read” level, but I’m pleased I did and will keep my eyes peeled for Thea Paris #3.

—–

3 Stars

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Quercus Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.
N.B.: As this was an ARC, any quotations above may be changed in the published work — I will endeavor to verify them as soon as possible.

The Freedom Broker by K. J. Howe

The Freedom BrokerThe Freedom Broker

by K. J. Howe
Series: Thea Paris, #1

Hardcover, 361 pg.
Quercus, 2017

Read: November 6 – 7, 2017


Thea Paris is such a cool character — she’s like a combination of Charlie Fox and Vanessa Michael Munroe — but with a very different load of emotional baggage. When she was a child, her brother was sleeping in her room to help her make it through a hard night when he was kidnapped. She’s spent the following decades convinced that the only reason he was kidnapped is that the abductors thought he was Thea. Yes, he eventually made it back safely, but he was (obviously) never the same, and Thea used that to fuel her mission in life. Her father is the tycooniest of American Oil Tycoons, and she could’ve easily rested on his laurels, or followed in the family business.

But no, Thea is in private security, with an emphasis on K&R (Kidnapping and Ransom). She’s the one negotiating with kidnappers/their representatives to get a ransom paid and the victim returned to his home/family/nation/company. When that doesn’t work, Thea will lead the extraction team doing what they can to bring te victim home. She’s one of the best around. She is not perfect, and we see that right off, but she gets the job done well.

Which is good, because on the verge of one of the biggest deals of his life, Thea’s father, Christos, is kidnapped. It’s up to her, some allies and friends to bring him home. There are several candidates for the kidnapper’s identity — there’s the Chinese oil corporations competing with her father, there are representatives of the African nation that kidnapped her brother all those years ago, there’s an arms dealer that has rumors flying, too. In the midst of this hunt, secrets will be revealed (many Thea will regret learning), and virtually everyone in her life will end up divulging something dark and hidden.

One more thing about Thea — she’s diabetic. Which is an interesting character trait — I can’t think of another action hero with something like that: a real physical condition that requires maintenance, but is manageable and will not ordinarily cause anything more than inconvenience. Sure, it does give us what I’m calling Chekhov’s glucose monitor (not a spoiler, that’s what I put in my notes when it was first mentioned).

I liked the other characters, too — but it’s hard to talk about most of them without getting too heavily into the plot. So let’s just say there are a few people I’m really looking forward to seeing again, and a few that I enjoyed enough this time out, but am very glad they’re in no position to show up again. Just about everyone has a believable motivation — no matter what side of the law and/or morality they fall on — which is just great.

Howe’s prose is tight and the pacing is great. There’s a few times that Thea has the same thought over and over — which is probably realistic, but it seems repetitive (and possibly not trusting the reader enough) to read her conclude “X may have done Y” in a chapter, and then “Y may have been done by X” in the next. But it’s nothing to get too worked up over, I didn’t think. Howe does seem to have a “everything including the kitchen sink” approach to story telling — the number of things that go wrong during Thea’s search for her father, and the number of opponents and obstacles in her way is seemingly endless. I love it, every time you think she’s on a roll and things are going to start going her way, a problem that the reader should’ve seen coming (but almost never does) shows up to derail things again. Sure, eventually, that comes to an end — the book doesn’t go on forever — but not until Howe’s good and ready for it to end. She’s probably getting a new kitchen constructed to hurl at Thea in the next book.

There’s a great mix of action and intrigue, putting clues together and smacking heads, emotional growth and uncovering the past. Like it’s protagonist, The Freedom Broker isn’t perfect, but it gets the job done well. Sign me up for the upcoming sequel, too.

—–

3.5 Stars

2017 Library Love Challenge