A precisely written, enthusiastic thriller that definitely hits its mark

A RELUCTANT ASSASSIN

First-time author Wilcox’s thriller follows a former Marine sniper who attempts to solve his financial misfortunes by offering his services as a hit man.

Honorably discharged, Sgt. Oscar Wylton comes home to find his estranged wife remarried; she’s also legally booted him from the company he helped create. Despite his degree and experience, Oscar’s job search is fruitless. So he opts to go into business for himself, utilizing his military training as a hired assassin. Oscar stealthily contacts a troubled woman who could use his assistance, and she accepts his proposal. A successful hit breeds a generous payoff—and a contract referral. Several scenes illustrate the sergeant’s experience in Afghanistan, covertly trekking across the terrain at night. These passages are wrought with anticipation—and shrewd foreshadowing for the assassinations. Parts of the novel feel like shorter stories—Oscar’s saving a young girl in Afghanistan or his mission eliminating Serbian snipers. But this only engenders further sympathy for Oscar, who’s burdened with guilt for killing innocents to avoid capture or detection. Some aspects of Oscar’s life are a little too convenient: His children are flawless; clients send payments with gushing letters and unsolicited bonuses; and his sexual trysts are too easy, including a memorable one with the assistant who is simply passing time while waiting to speak with an arms supplier. Suspense, however, is derived from exhilarating sequences involving hits that rarely go off without a hitch; one narrow escape ends with Oscar hiding in the ceiling of a public restroom for several days, only coming down for water, use of the facilities and a shave. Additional highlights include the roller-coaster relationship between Oscar and his ex-wife, whose messages range from courteous to expletive-laden, and the always-appreciated dry humor: his decision to not “argue” with a large handgun pointed in his direction and the receptionist who offers Oscar coffee, tea, “but definitely not her.”

A precisely written, enthusiastic thriller that definitely hits its mark

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1450257817

Page Count: 260

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2012

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Fast-paced fun that’s fraught with peril. The Bells are such a nice couple.

THE SABOTEURS

Malign forces want to slow completion of the Panama Canal, but Isaac Bell has plenty to say about that in his 12th tale of derring-do.

In 1914, the U.S. is digging an enormous ditch across the mosquito-infested isthmus of Panama, with “mechanical dragons wreathed in steam” ripping out eight tons at a time in the Culebra Cut. Horrific incidents happen, and they’re not always accidents. A mysterious terrorist group called Viboras Rojas, or Red Vipers, seems responsible for an explosion that kills dozens and delays the canal’s construction. Isaac Bell of the Van Dorn Detective Agency is sent there to investigate, and a team of wild horses wouldn’t keep his wife, Marion, from coming along. Bell keeps mighty busy. Within days, he’s “thwarted an assassination attempt and brought a mad bomber to heel,” and he’s just getting started. The detective is exceptionally observant and ingenious. How he survives a catastrophic landslide is such a combination of quick thinking and luck that readers will hold their breath as they turn the pages, only realizing later how unlikely it all is. Meanwhile, Germany conspires with Argentina to severely delay the canal’s opening—Argentina would lose plenty of oceangoing commerce, and as it girds for war in Europe, Germany fears America’s rise as a global power. The proximate villain is Otto Dreissen, who correctly believes that former President Teddy Roosevelt won’t be able to resist traveling to see “the most transformative engineering feat in history…dangers be damned”—and there is danger, since the kaiser has authorized Roosevelt's assassination. But first Dreissen must arrange an “accident” for Bell, the “man with the nine lives of a cat.” Poor Otto. He should know it’s not that easy to kill off a series hero. Nor a series hero’s wife, even when she’s dangling from a dirigible. A bonus tip to readers: Stay away from manchineel trees and superheated steam.

Fast-paced fun that’s fraught with peril. The Bells are such a nice couple.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-19122-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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The first of Woods’ many collaborations to be unquestionably inferior to his solo performances.

JACKPOT

CIA operative–turned-killer Teddy Fay, aka Hollywood producer Billy Barnett, gets his fifth sort-of-starring role in a splashy, muddled thriller set in Macau.

Centurion Studios president Ben Bacchetti and his partner, director Peter Barrington, see no reason why their visit to the Macau Film Festival should be all business. They’re dismayed when their visit to a baccarat table at the Golden Desert Casino and Resort is used as material for a deep-fake video that seems to show them cheating. The video, which has evidently been engineered by Bing-Wen “Bingo” Jo, bids fair drag them into the iron grip of fearsome media/casino mogul Arrow Donaldson, for whom Bingo works off the books on matters concerning digital technology and violence. But Centurion producer Teddy, who’s every bit the equal of Bingo and Donaldson fixer Zhou "Ziggy" Peng put together, is on the case. His improbable sometime partners are Li Feng, the heiress and CFO of QuiTel who’s fighting to keep her company exempt from the U.S. blacklist of competing Chinese telecom corporations suspected of spying, and Millie Martindale, a CIA administrator who’s a lot more resourceful than most administrators you’ll ever meet. The first partnership between Woods and Quertermous is full of casino underlings, biddable cops, fake shootings, and doubles living and dead. But the plot never thickens, and readers confident that Teddy will live to fight, pressure, cheat, and kill another day may be indifferent to the fate of the nefarious forces arrayed against him.

The first of Woods’ many collaborations to be unquestionably inferior to his solo performances.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18845-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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