A former soldier and an ex-boxer team up to investigate a top-secret government facility in this debut novel.
At the House of Cards in Yuma, Arizona, fate introduces bartender Vic Petrillo to Sam Monahan, a former boxer–turned–government informant who has been coerced into infiltrating a motorcycle gang, the Iconoclasts. For his part, Vic, a former Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, wound up a police officer in a seaside community on Long Island before eventually turning up in Yuma. When Vic figures out what is really going on, he agrees to help Sam with his assignment, which ultimately includes penetrating a mysterious government research facility nearby. In lengthy flashbacks, readers find out about the surrogate family that Sam became a part of and how that all fell apart after a tragic accident in the boxing ring. And they learn how Vic married a beauty named Luz Maria, who was targeted by a cartel of Mexican assassins. He was also offered employment by a representative for the enigmatic Jasper Initiative, which turns out to have a link to the motorcycle gang Sam is now trying to join. Eventually, a new character introduced late in the work takes over the narrative, with readers following him from the Yuma research facility to an abandoned mental hospital on Long Island. It’s in this last section of the book that things go completely off the rails. A former Marine and member of law enforcement, Berrell writes convincingly about how tough guys interact with one another, even as his characterizations remain somewhat on the primitive side. The plotting here is literally all over the place, as the author tries to cram too many elements (terrorism, government conspiracies, black-ops gone bad, family secrets) into too few pages. And the story seems to take a grisly delight in depicting the various ways in which pain can be inflicted on the human body.
This pulpy tale about a shadowy research operation will most likely appeal to those in search of macho thrills.