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Sirk TV Book Review: THE LAST DAWN [Minotaur]

lastdawnThe notion of counter intelligence even in so-called 3rd world countries involves the need for political fervor but also of an understanding of the rules of engagement. Emotion and loyalty always clouds these decisions in an intricate way. In “The Last Dawn” [Joe Gannon/Minotaur/288pgs], this idea takes on an interesting double-sided approach. Like an earlier reviewed novel “Passenger 19”, it takes into account exterior forces…including almost ex-pat revolutionaries…whose input changes the balance of power or at least the policy in the region. The crux here is a man Ajax whose first introduction is saving a woman who had been kept prisoner for her own actions. He saves her but disappears as she is knocked out. She wakes up resettled in Miami with no comprehension of what has happened. She finally gets word of his situation months later after being consigned to a psych hospital. In an interesting set of circumstances she, through the help of a Colombian high ranking officer, is able to sneak him out of her original country per se in a catatonic state even though it is assumed he was responsible for an assassination there. From there a double cross happens which brings Ajax right back into custody. The pair are essentially blackmailed into an almost black op to rescue the son of a prominent family who has basically gone underground with the militia. The snaking progression of the story takes many turns including poker playing with priests, kids with high caliber munitions and full on massacres inside cliff house mansions. Granted this bedlam is not far from the truth in some countries but here it feels only slightly better than chaos managed by very loose state guards of control. Ajax is a seat -of-your-pants hero who always wants to be the loner with a charm about him…the incessant rogue who always manages to figure an angle out with the right amount of bravado but with the slight possibility of being wrong. The more interesting character is Gladys. As a former rebel, she has layers of loyalty, intense military training and a fluid sexuality that allows her to gauge situations in often logical and tactile ways which makes her character unpredictable across the board. This is echoed in certain ways by many of the other women including their high society contact Jasmine as well as an old school elderly supporter and an escort with succinct security access who happens to like her. The biggest strength of “The Last Dawn” as a book shows a political and underground guerrilla war being adjusted by these very sharp woman who can strategize to affect the men’s inherent and effectively predictable bravado. The aspect of resolution and the stupidity of their target (the missing son) comes off more secondary despite its completion. The character themselves as a whole create more interest despite the fact that the plot itself meanders a bit too much.
By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV Book Review: AMERICAN BLOOD [Minotaur]

american-bloodFinding a good anti-hero who pretty much does all the right things can be a little grating but it depends on how right he is for the job. In “American Blood” [Ben Sanders/Minotaur/352pgs], the person at the crux of this idea is Marshall, a WITSEC stalwart who was former undercover in NYPD on payroll with organized crime. This structure of course is a prevalent backstory for more of a “Fargo”/”No Country For Old Men” set up, with this one specifically in the American Southwest, closer to Arizona. Actually in many ways “Salton Sea” with Val Kilmer comes to mind because of the comparative darkness of that story and the parallel with the lead character. The idea with people in these situations is that they have nothing to lose and are sometimes doing all the wrong things for the right reasons. Marshall starts off the book saving a woman he doesn’t know who turns out to be a lady cop simply because it was simply the right thing to do. Then he continues on a longer tangent to find a girl that was lost simply because he whole situation didn’t sound right. As a plot set up, this seems like a flimsy three act structure but that kind of mythic undercurrent has often served as a great basis for a series. The characters in play here (a couple ex-militaries including a real piece of work (Leon) as well as some of his conniving and not all together loyal scumbags) operate in a slightly unbalanced netherworld of motivations that include the destroying of evidence, even if it is the bodies of their own friends. These kind of actions as well as the psychological motivations of some of the killers, specifically one called The Dallas Man and ultimately the great reveal of a character called The Patriarch (whose existence Is alluded to and played within the plot) give the book it’s solid through-line. It is this part of the story that needs to be kept in balance. Everything involving Marshall leads us to that story turn and that is why it works. In a certain way, despite any of the cool noir set pieces, it becomes about the balance of family and tragedy and blood while still having an Elmore Leonard spin to it with inherently a bit more reality to the equation. Bradley Cooper apparently bought the rights and Marshall is an interesting role possibly for him. Like the recent “Burnt” or even “American Sniper”, it requires him to be slightly unlikable but also display a rogue chivalry which could be effective with the right director and tone. The story is there and the reveal is effective as long as the underlying world doesn’t get too bogged down in mechanics. This is a yarn that works if it is taken at face value for its strengths.
By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV Book Review: DEADLINE [Minotaur]


Executing a noir steeped in style highlighting an American (or similar) navigating the essences of Marseilles is an interesting element but within the narrative of “Deadline” [Chris Ewan/Minotaur/352pgs], the story could take place anywhere. The intended story structure involves a hostage negotiator for private clients who steps in to aid and assist with an unemotional attachment in a situation rife with snap judgments. What makes this book unique but ultimately formulaic is that the hostage negotiator attached to the situation portrayed in this book does have an emotional connection. He believes his client Jerome is in someway, if not completely, responsible for the disappearance of his fiance and his unborn child. Said fiance was part of his team, setting up different kinds of insurance to rich clients, should anything happen. The kidnapping, as portrayed here, seems less than happenstance. Trent, the negotiator, just happens to be on scene trailing his intended target. He then becomes embroiled in the act to save, if for only to make sure he finds something in relation to his fiance’s disappearance. The man’s son turns out to be sleeping with the client’s trophy wife and the requisite bodyguard has more than a passing loyalty to his employer even if he does keep things from him. The negotiator, again in a lapse of narrative logic, covers up the murder of a chauffeur and also enlists the snooping capabilities of a former cop when it is revealed that he too was struck by the kidnapper that Trent is pursuing. Twists and turns ensue eventually leading to an apparent killing of an ally, both up close and brutally and another one simply out of desperation. The good thing is that the author does not apologize for his characters actions…it is simply a means to an end. Ultimately this functionality proves fatal. The fatalism though is not a consequence of a lack of focus. It simply is a means to an end. In this way, the novel is successful but the way it gets there is not necessarily succinct or overtly interesting.


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