In Sutton’s debut thriller, a Vietnam vet acquires astounding new abilities that prove handy when facing various thugs.
After his time in Vietnam, John Clarkson sank into alcoholism, leaving him with a bleeding ulcer and a ruined marriage. Consequently, he goes on hiatus from his (and fellow vet Sid Collins’) Californian sheet metal company and takes a security job for a mine in Peru, where he’s bitten by a venomous spider. John eludes a slow death thanks to a potion he calls “Evil Liquid”: an ancient recipe of pepper seeds, wine dregs, and unknown herbs. John regains his strength and then some and even develops a sixth sense. Back in the United States, with a new pilot’s license, John agrees to fly Bonnie Kline, an aerobics instructor and friend, to Seattle and Canada to secure rights to a mine claim. As the spider-bite treatment also boosted John’s sexual stamina, he’s intimate with quite a few women, including Bonnie and (separately) her niece, Helen Boyd, who joins the flight to see family in Canada. But John will need his other abilities when dealing with assailants, from irate bikers in Seattle to prison escapees who’ve made their way to British Columbia. Sutton’s novel feels like two stories in one, linked by the protagonist. The book, primarily set in Seattle and Canada, is rife with baddies looking for a fight. Though these scenes often showcase John nobly protecting someone, they’re also brutal; one would-be assailant gets a boot heel “in the left kneecap, destroying the bone instantly.” Escaped convicts, Jimmy Q and Bob Logan, are the clear villains, though their inevitable confrontation with John is unfortunately anticlimactic. The novel then rather oddly switches from a third-person narrative to first-person, with an entirely new setting (Alaska) and villains (possibly crooked brokers) after John employs his sixth sense for stock market investments. Though the shift in perspective is jarring, John remains a man of action.
A diverting tale of a protagonist and his new powers with series potential.