A rancher looks into his late father’s past and may learn more than he’d intended in Ochs’ Western drama (The Boathouse, 2008).
Oliver Walsh, despite being the only son and the oldest of three children, receives the smallest chunk of his father’s vast inheritance. But what he finds most jarring is the inclusion of a weathered rifle that his father had deemed valuable and an apparently abandoned ranch of which Oliver was not even aware. A little research finds a connection between the two—both were formerly owned by Malcolm Duffey Jr. Years before, Malcolm had moved west to Montana, where he made money hunting buffalo before going into business with a man that he didn’t completely trust—C. Charles Walsh. Ochs takes a unique approach to telling his story. Though scenes with Malcolm are flashbacks and form the bulk of the novel, they’re not the narrative interpretation of what Oliver has learned through researching land records and newspaper articles. What he ultimately exposes is a significant but condensed version. The dual timelines maintain a high level of anticipation. The prior knowledge of Malcolm’s death (much earlier than Charles’) and the crumbling of the two men’s personal and business relations fuels curiosity about the story leading up to those events. There’s little humor, but Malcolm’s education of the West by way of dime-store novels is a highlight, especially with titles such as Jesse James and the Soiled Dames and Buffalo Bill Plays the Death Flute. The hardships of the Old West are shown with an unblinking eye, which may cause animal lovers to flinch—buffalo, horses and cattle fall prey to hunting, severe weather and harsh conditions.
A Western on the business side of things, deftly supported by engrossing melodrama and inimitable characters.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.
Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.
Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?
With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.