Friday, January 25, 2013

The Plantation - Chris Kuzneski

I finished another Chris Kuzneski book today, The Plantation. It's another Payne and Jones story by Mr. Kuzneski. Jon Payne and David Jones served together in an ultra elite military organization called the MANIACs, or Marine Army Navy Intelligence Air Force Coast Guard. The group is comprised of the best Special Forces operators and tacticians from all the military, intelligence and homeland security branches. While somewhat simplistic as opposed the Magellan Billet of Steve Berry/Cotton Malone fame the group serves as a catalyst for the camaraderie and unspoken bond between the two main characters defining their ability to execute deadly missions together with little or no planning at all. However if you are a true student of tactics, wartime operations and missions, and military planning this is not likely the book for you as it does not delve into tactical decision making or Special Forces type procedures. The Plantation is Mr. Kuzneski's first published novel and debut's the main characters, Payne and Jones. The story begins with several abductions, one being the girlfriend of Mr. Payne who just happens to be an ex SF commander and CEO of a major corporation out of Pennsylvania. He pairs with his best friend, his former second in command, David Jones who now runs a detective agency from space within Payne's corporation. The two track down the abducted girlfriend by identifying a tattoo and learning the license plate of the van that drove off with the girlfriend. The story takes the pair to New Orleans where they stumble across an obvious enemy in an amazing coincidence of acquaintance in former NFL player Levon Greene. It is painfully obvious that Greene is playing the two fro the outset when he conveniently disappears to use the bathroom while the two heroes press a local tattoo artist for info on the tattoo after Greene begged to be a part of the action. When our heroes firearms don't work, acquired by Greene for them, they fail to consider Greene as an enemy again. This running theme of failure to notice the obvious works against readers who thrive on accuracy and detail however Kuzneski's story is more a fun fast paced adventure that uses simple drivers such as the MANIACs and disregard of the obvious to keep the story going. In fact even after the shooting at the tattoo parlor the New Orleans police release Payne and Jones without ever bring them to a police station. The end result is the discovery and destruction of a secluded island being used as a plantation similar to pre-Civil War times, where white slaves are being put to work and viciously abused by their new captors after their abductions. Payne and Jones, with the help of a local named Bennie Blunt (another obvious actor playing a part to mislead, in this case the plantation owners)do a great job of destroying the operations on the island but do not save all the captives or get to Greene and his lone surviving conspirator, Octavian Holmes. Using a hard drive found on the island Payne and Jones are able to track Greene, Holmes, and the rest of the captives to Nigeria where they are intended to be sold. Once again they successfully destroy a compound and save some more captives and are lead to the final battle wherein the eventually have an almost anticlimactic final face off with Greene and Holmes ultimately freeing the remaining captives including Payne's girlfriend. Of course the raid in Nigeria occurred with the complete active MANIACs team, all of whom survive. In the end the superficial nature and out of place dialogues and jokes don't detract from the fast paced and fun. If you have a flight and get stuck in an airport this may be a great way to pass the time.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Fallen Angel by David Hewson

I just finished another wonderful story by David Hewson, The Fallen Angel. The story places Nic Costa in the middle of a family as it struggles to survive while dealing with tragedy, internal secrets, and outside pressures. While Mr. Hewson continues in his tradition of plot hints and beautiful descriptions of Rome this book shows his long term ability to develop characters and group dynamics beyond a single book. This story is an excellent murder mystery leading the reader on while dropping hints and teasing clues about the very different conclusion of the book. The parallels to the central character, Mina Gabriel, to Beatrice Cenci, serve as both plot driver and historical reference. I look forward to more David Hewson, Nic Costa, Agata Graziano, Teresa Lupo, and the rest of the gang from the questura in the centro storico of Rome. I'm just waiting for the breakout Silvio di Capua story!