I'm a long-time Ben Coes fan. I've read every book in the Dewey Andreas series--loved every one of them. He always includes some sort of military-terrI'm a long-time Ben Coes fan. I've read every book in the Dewey Andreas series--loved every one of them. He always includes some sort of military-terrorist-weapon detail that rings true even when I know nothing about the topic. Here's how he describes a shipment of illicit weapons being shipped to the Middle East:
"The guns were sanitized. There were no manufacturer engravings or other identifiers on any of them. And they were all precisely the same model: M4 carbine, blackish gray, gas-operated, magazine-fed, telescoping stock, Picatinny rail, vertical forward grip..."
No one can write in that level of detail and not know what he is talking about. At least, that's my conclusion.
His latest Andreas adventure, First Strike (St. Martin's Press 2016) is probably the best yet (OK, I might say that about every book. Coes just keeps getting better and better). It starts with the rise of ISIS, born from the traitorous actions of a few misguided politicians. By the time we get to present day, stopping this group is well-beyond simple. When the stakes become too high to ignore, the only solution anyone has is to call Dewey Andreas.
One of the masterful techniques Ben Coes uses in this series is to show us the human side of this unstoppable, bigger-than-life warrior. It may be an emotion or simply thoughts that any of us would have in his position, even those of us who aren't miracle workers:
"When Dewey climbed aboard the jet earlier that day [this is when Andreas believes he has stopped the terrorist threat, before he finds out they have a lethal Plan B], he thought he would enjoy a calm ride home followed by a few weeks off. He felt battered and bruised. Not to mention the horrible feeling he could not shake, the feeling of having a knife against his throat."
While I've always been in awe of the fullness of Andreas' character--his compassion, his moral compass, his strategic wisdom--the biggest takeaway from this story is an understanding of why ISIS-type terrorists choose such feral and violent methods to deliver their message:
"[The ISIS leader is talking to one of his followers, currently in charge of a deadly act of terrorism on America's soil] In the moments just before victory, fear, intimidation, violence, brutality must be doubled, tripled, quadrupled. It is not because you are evil. It is because this is how countries are born."
Even if you aren't into thrillers, read this novel for the geopolitical understanding of what is happening around us....more
I've read all of the Junior Bender comic-mystery series by Timothy Hallinan and loved every one of them (see my review of "Crashed" and "Little ElviseI've read all of the Junior Bender comic-mystery series by Timothy Hallinan and loved every one of them (see my review of "Crashed" and "Little Elvises"). It features a moral burglar--kind of a Renaissance Man--who is excellent at his job, but keeps getting into trouble. Unsurprisingly, this is mostly because of the people he (being a crook) hangs out with. Junior's exploits are always clever, quick, and told with a witty humor and a pride of product that makes everything seem like it'll work out. He shares lots of tips on how to be a successful burglar--almost a procedural on the subject. What makes his story even more intriguing is that Junior is something of a bibliophile, always connecting the world around him to some historic event:
"The Cahuenga Pss, which derived its name from a Spanish mispronunciation of Cahueg-na, a Native American trading post that once occupied much of the space..."
Or the love of literacy (reading and language) that constantly shapes his world:
"It occurred to me that I was about twenty minutes away from Ronnie's neat, bright, book-filled little apartment..."
"Would it be possible for us to dispense with the condition tense?" "Is that like if and might have?"
"King Maybe" (Soho Crime 2016) was no exception. In this story, Junior runs into trouble with what should have been an easy job, and the solution to get him out of trouble only makes things worse. This was the usual fun romp as Junior tries to out-think and outsmart the criminals trying to control him, except this time--unlike previous books--the interior monologue wandered perilously close to ranting. Here's an example:
"The Ubermenschen of anger, the truly globally angry, were of course politicians, and, to a less extent, high-ranking military officers. Not all of them, of course; some of them (to give them the benefit of the doubt) actually wanted to serve their country, but others (many of them marked, like Cain, with the inverted facial U that Herbie used to call 'Donald Trump Mount') wanted power, pure and simple."
Hallinan may have intended it as character development, but for me, it distracted from what is usually a fun, light read.
Overall, an excellent book, but not as engaging as the earlier ones in the series. I'll still read the next one....more