ALL THE BIG ONES ARE DEAD by Christopher A.  Gray

ALL THE BIG ONES ARE DEAD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this thriller, Interpol seeks to shut down an organization that peddles illegal animal parts and funds terrorists.

Putting a stop to illegal game hunting is becoming decidedly more difficult for Interpol. International terrorist and smuggling groups finance the illicit hunts and in turn receive significant profits from the distribution of ivory and rhino horns. But the unknown organization “running the show” is utilizing encrypted communications that Interpol hasn’t been able to crack. Officer Michael Bishop, “on loan from the CIA,” suggests simply tracking poachers from a kill site, which is what he ultimately does in Cameroon. Indeed, he finds poachers, but his search for distributors takes him first to a warehouse in Marseille and later to New York. Interpol is already in Manhattan to locate an asset, John Logan, a Columbia University professor, mathematician, and encryption expert. He may be able to assist Interpol in gaining access to the group’s communications. At the same time, the organization is targeting Logan’s encryption algorithm. Its plan entails coercing people to help, including Columbia alum Julius Coppola, who will clear his gambling debts if he agrees to steal information. But the group also ties off loose ends by employing David Trask, formerly in the U.S. Army and CIA, who is prone to violence and has a past with Bishop. Bishop and others, such as Interpol Inspector Diane Linders, want intelligence on the head of the organization. All they need to do is track down and protect certain individuals before Trask gets to them.

Though this novel features plenty of action, the story’s strength lies with Gray (Dark Nights 2, 2019, etc.) and debut author Carson’s skillfully restrained approach. For example, Marc Dominican, who works for the organization, seems personable when he initially encounters Coppola. But his sinister purpose is quickly clear when he addresses Coppola’s debt, specifying various amounts. Similarly, Trask’s attacks are chilling in their suddenness; by the time characters register that something is happening, someone is already dead. On the other end of the moral spectrum, Bishop is an admirable but formidable hero. His interrogation of a particular suspect is unnerving due to anticipation, as readers have seen Bishop question someone earlier. Meticulous descriptions of the interrogation room aptly illustrate this expectation: “There is a video camera in each of the four corners of the room, mounted exactly two meters high, usually invisible to a detainee because the cameras are in deep shadows and aimed at the pool of light thrown by ceiling mounted spots that illuminate only the table and chairs.” Regardless, Bishop is physically capable when it proves necessary, as when he coldly dispatches a handful of poachers or engages in fisticuffs. There’s a fair amount of characters in the story, and the authors assiduously detail each one. This gives deaths—and near deaths—serious dramatic impact, like the loss of an agent that unquestionably affects Bishop. Likewise, two players’ understated romance throughout is more than enough for the predictable but endearing payoff.

An exhilarating, globe-trekking espionage tale that delivers robust characters.

Pub Date: April 20th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-926433-15-8
Page count: 364pp
Publisher: Sunbow Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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