"An effervescent ride chock-full of memorable action and characters."– Kirkus Reviews
The fifth book in Reneau’s (Legend of War Creek, 2015, etc.) thriller series finds returning American geologist Trace Brandon facing off against terrorists in a politically restless West African country.
Trace is looking for a fresh start, having just lost someone he loved. Mali, where he can explore a gold concession with pal Gordon Watson, is as good a place as any. But unpleasantness may be on the horizon: Gordon’s leasing exploration rights from a company controlled by the furtive Gen. Timerov, head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service. At the same time, people like Oliver Olgetree, the U.S. ambassador to Mali, warn Trace of potential problems, from an arms dealer that the Saudis are gunning for to venomous scorpions and camel spiders. And this is before Gordon and Trace even have drilling equipment in the country. The biggest threat, as it turns out, may be al-Qaida, whose local members have taken shots at the crew’s plane and who’s most likely responsible for an assassination attempt against Trace. The geologist gets a helping hand from attorney/business partner Will Coffee and, surprisingly, Babba Dia, said arms dealer, who outfits the men with much-needed Uzis, and Humphrey Bogart–look-alike pilot Jean-Claude Renaud. But when al-Qaida kidnaps a friend, Trace will have to decide whether to pay the ransom or organize a rescue mission. Though the story’s brimming with obstacles for the protagonist, it’s the menacing atmosphere that proves most indelible. Military coups, for example, are common in West Africa—there’s an ever present chance of Trace and others finding themselves in danger of having operations in Mali interrupted or stopped altogether. More ominous but just as unsettling are giant fruit bats that seem to gather outside of Trace’s hotel room window. When not ducking bullets or missiles, the geologist dabbles in romance with Molly Wainwright; hasty love declarations are a little hard to believe, but U.S. Peace Corps supervisor Molly is an exceptional character. As in preceding books, Reneau’s laconic writing style is laced with humor, like cloud tendrils from an imminent storm equated with “the tentacles of a very pissed-off octopus.”
Trouble follows the protagonist everywhere he goes—and so should readers; each new tale’s as gripping as the last.
The fourth adventure for geologist Trace Brandon, who seeks a gold-bearing vein in Washington state and may have to thwart a hostile takeover of his mining company in Reneau’s (south of good, 2014, etc.) thriller.
Trace and a few friends go in search of the infamous lost mine in Okanogan County’s War Creek. Many have searched for the mine, originally discovered by a guide in 1882, and some have never come back. Trace receives his share of warnings, including one from an elderly Native American who foresees death. Sure enough, someone murders a claim staker. But trouble also brews elsewhere: inmate Anthony Delucia, who blames Trace for his son’s death, has escaped. Meanwhile, New Orleans Mafia don Peter Pantelli may have a sinister agenda now that he’s a major shareholder in Trace’s Ruby Mining Company. The notable protagonist derives his strength from his well-chosen allies; standouts are Marion Thistlewaite, a “former clandestine operative,” and Trace’s cousin and retired sheriff Hank Orvis, who dares anyone to interrupt his Gunsmoke reruns. Despite the Washington setting, the story boasts a bit of Southern flair: Trace and company ride horses to War Creek, and everyone, it seems, drops the occasional “ain’t.” At times, good guys seem to outnumber bad, but the villains are unquestionably formidable. Delucia tracks Trace, et al., a little too well, while Pantelli isn’t just a financial threat; he’ll also hire backup, like a proficient female assassin, to do his dirtiest work. The abundance of subplots is dizzyingly fun but not befuddling, and the novel has a bit of action, a hint of the supernatural, and a few whopping surprises. Reneau’s writing is unadorned but often playful: when pal Cyrus asks Trace what kind of trouble he’s found, Trace replies with a wry, “The dead kind.”
A rousing tale with a good deal of Southern charm in northern Washington.
A Texas sheriff tries to take down a drug lord pushing cocaine across the Mexican-U.S. border and winds up dodging bullets in Cuba and the Cayman Islands in Reneau’s (Ruby Silver, 2014, etc.) latest thriller.
When pilot and marijuana transporter Wes Stoddard tells Cameron County Sheriff Hardin Steel that he wants to go straight, the sheriff asks for a trade-off: Wes can help the DEA get his boss, Frederick Ochoa. But their plan for Wes to sell DEA-confiscated cocaine back to Ochoa backfires when Russian Alexsie Yazov, who works for Ochoa, decides to steal the coke and, for good measure, kidnap Rory Roughton, daughter of an oil tycoon and Hardin’s sometimes-girlfriend. Yazov, however, doesn’t release Rory, despite a paid ransom. So Hardin, Wes and PI Buck Bateman initiate a rescue mission in Cuba, made even more dangerous by the fact that Ochoa, still pissed about his missing cocaine, is invested in killing all of them. The novel often feels like a series of action scenes, one trailing after the other: A sting operation begets a double-cross begets retaliation and so on. Where Reneau truly excels is the action: Hardin and his pals enact blistering sequences, from a high-speed boat chase to a quick escape in a seaplane. And these scenes are rife with shocks, as one of the criminals (much worse than Wes) makes an unlikely ally for Hardin (readers should be wary of getting too attached to Hardin’s buddies). Regardless of all of the gunfire, as well as the occasional surface-to-air missile, the story generally takes on its protagonist’s easygoing nature. It’s a lighthearted affair, even considering that there are contracts out on Hardin, Wes and Buck (Hardin calls the trio “contractees”). But there’s also a visceral moment or two, because a torturer, like many of the book’s characters, will probably suffer a violent reprisal. Reneau concludes the story with a hint that something (or maybe someone) is pending and will return, welcome or not, in Book 2.
An effervescent ride chock-full of memorable action and characters.